"Integrity is when our words and deeds are consistent with our intentions."
Simon Sine "
It surprised me when my neighbor and friend Marie entered my hospital room. "We'll help, Maddy," My dear neighbor took my hand. "All of us will, Mrs. Martin, Lisa, all the neighbors, because we know how important your gardens are to you, and the doc says you'll cannot lift anything over five pounds for quite a while, just to be on the safe side."
"You talked to my doctor?" My mouth was dry, and my mind felt blurry. I knew how strict the privacy laws had become, so I wondered how.
"Yeah," Marie's long dark hair draped her dark, friendly face as she leaned closer, lowered her head, and whispered, "I told her I.m your sister." You said you have no family, so now I'm your new neighbor-sister!"
I laughed, and the post-op anesthesia waned, and the pain took over. "Oh."
Marie pointed to Stargazer lilies, white roses, and baby's breath filling my bedside table. Beautiful, but their heavy mixture of scents gave me a wave of nausea. "Thanks, Marie."
"I got them at the Grocery store, and they let me pick out what flowers I thought you'd want. I recognized these from the arrangements you give us and our church. You're not even a member! I don't think you know how we all love your flowers and how you share them."
Sharing them was a joy and served a practical purpose. The more you pick or deadhead many flowers, such as roses, daisies, and zinnias, the more blooms they produce. It' truly is a win-win situation.
As much as I appreciated Maria's visit, I was so tired and in pain that I just wanted to sleep. Just then, a nurse rescued me. "I know you want to spend time with your sister, but she needs her rest. She'll be home in a day or two and will appreciate your company more then. Go on home now."
"Okay, sis, I'll see you tomorrow," she winked and blew me a kiss, then aimed a deep bow behind the nurse's back. I wanted to laugh, but that hurt too much.
I was in the hospital because of heavy menstrual bleeding. I'd complained about it at several annual checkups, but my doctor waved it away as 'early menopause.' Then I nearly bled out and keeled over at a co-worker's funeral. Not much can ruin such an event than a heavily bleeding mourner being hauled away from the graveside by ambulance. I required a complete hysterectomy with a large benign tumor on my uterus. Unfortunately, an infection occurred soon after, and I was in the ICU, with no visitors, for two weeks.
I spent a few more days in a hospital room, and Lisa, Maria, and coworkers visited and brought flowers, candy, and even a stuffed Penguin, Opus!
"Thank you so much! I love them!"
Lisa said, "We didn't get balloons because we know you're against them."
"Thank you. If people knew how deadly they are to wildlife, they'd never buy them."
Lisa, my tall, Nordic neighbor with long, straight pale blonde hair and sapphire eyes, brought me home. I still wobbled a bit, but it brought relief and happiness, knowing that my bed and peace awaited me. If you've ever been in a hospital, you know a patient gets no rest whatsoever. They must hire someone to drop a large stainless steel bowl in the hallways every midnight.
A blinding plethora of flowers greeted me when Lisa pulled into my driveway. My perennials, turtleheads, white lilies, and green hostas stood at lush attention around the foundation. A cutting garden was in the back, with full sun, but my neighbors didn't know this. We were friends, but not those who were up in each other's faces or backyards.
These lovely people, who were not gardeners, planted vivid yellow golf-ball-sized marigolds, bright red Salvia, and colorful Potrulaca blossoms between my hosta and lilies. They'd dug a new strip along each side of the sidewalk leading to my front porch and filled it with orange marigolds, more red Salvia, bright red, yellow, and orange Portulaca. I'd have to figure out a way to fix that. But it was such a lovely gesture.
"Wow, you've all been very busy! Thank you!" I inwardly winced at the 'cheerleaders' I saved for the backyard. The front of my house faces north and has large sugar maples surrounding it, and very little sunlight fights its way through the dense leaves, thus the Hostas, lilies, and impatiens I usually plant there. I know these recent additions were doomed in the deep shade, but it was so sweet a thing to do I remained in grateful silence. Instead, I watched them grow spindly and die, poor babies (the plants, not my neighbors.)
Lisa helped me into the house and brought my suitcase. I went to my old, trusty recliner and reclined. So comfy. Heaven.
I slept there for about an hour when the doorbell woke me, and I hobbled over and answered it. Maria's smile greeted me, "Here, darlin', I made you some miso soup and bought a lemon cream cake."
"Thank you so much! Come on in!"
"Miso soup is very healing! I'll put it in the fridge. Want a slice of cake and a tea?"
"Sure, that sounds wonderful!" And it was.
Lisa showed up about twenty minutes later, offering a loaf of her homemade Rosemary bread and a tub of Irish butter. Yum. "I'll put the butter in the fridge. Oh my, Maddy, you've got a lot of UFOs in there."
Lisa laughed and said in her sweet Alabama drawl, "Unidentified Fridge Objects? I don't even know what some of this stuff is. Whew, these look all moldy. Four weeks is a long time for leftovers and… um… whatever this is. I'm throwing it all away, and sorry about your containers. I don't want to breathe this in."
"Oh, that's nice of you, but I can do it later. You've done so much already."
"It's no bother, Sugar. I'll have it all clean inside here in a jiffy. Oh my Lord, this looks awful, yuck."
Mrs. Martin showed up next. I think it was a plot. She was elderly; everyone had always called her Mrs. Martin, and she never corrected us. I invited her in.
"Maddy, dear, my grandson cuts your lawn when he does mine. He's out there right now."
I heard a very loud mower start up and continue for a half-hour.
"That's so nice of him." I took a twenty from my purse, all the cash I had, and hoped it was enough.
"No! He's doing this as part of our church group events."
"But I don't belong to your church."
"That doesn't matter. Take your money back."
"Well, how about if I donate' it to your church then? I don't feel right letting him do all that for free?"
"Nope. Now get back into that recliner and rest." She plopped her plump self down on my couch and pulled out her knitting. She held up a rainbow pattern scarf. "This is for my nephew. He's a gay, you know."
I smiled and nodded. "I'm sure he'll love it."
All four busily cleaned my fridge, vacuumed, mowed, and knitted away around me, and I appreciated it. I'd never felt so cared for and loved, and tired.
Later, I discovered Lisa had discarded Marie's Miso soup, all of my condiments, as well as the UFOs and my Pyrex containers. Mrs. Martin's grandson mowed the lawn and some hosta and ferns. Whoever vacuumed filled the vacuum cleaner container way beyond the maximum level, and it took me an hour to empty it.
After the first heavy frost sent every plant to a long peaceful winter's nap or their eternal reward, I donned my garden gloves and boots and set out to remove the remains of the gifts of Marigolds, Salvia, and others. Another surprise! The plants still wore their nursery pots, making removing them much easier.
Grass fills Maria, Lisa, and Mrs. Martin's yards. They set out a few containers purchased from a local big box store on their porch, but that's it. I should have realized they wouldn't know how or where to plant annuals, which endeared them to me even more. All that work and time, not to mention the money they poured into my yard.
I hired an arborist to prune the trees out front. They needed it anyway, and this provided six hours of full sunlight. I plant it with all the bright marigolds, Salvia, and Portulaca every year to honor their kindness and generosity, even if I had to do some digging to set it all right.