Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Garden Patience

How ironic that having waited summer after summer after summer for close to a decade for this Acanthus mollis to bloom, disappointed every year that the dramatic foliage didn't reveal any of the bear-breeched stalks, once the pergola was put in place so as to considerably obscure the plant, the darling blossomed quite happily. Was it just shy?

An up-close view of the flowers -- perhaps you can discern the bear-breeches shape that give the plant its common name. The acanthus leaves, I remember reading once, were, with the ivy, two central elements in classical (Latin, Greek) ornamentation -- carved on temple pillars, for example.
It takes some sneaky camerawork to present Mr. Acanthus as if he were not hiding behind a pergola -- just for you, readers, I twisted into the necessary angle. . . .
I'm hoping to get my mom into the garden today for some puttering, although it's raining now, serious rain for the first time in at least six weeks -- very welcome rain for the garden.
But in another irony, having finally managed to get mom to a garden she can work in to her heart's content, she seems to have little sustained motivation. Spending the day with her yesterday has made clearer to me the encroachments of her Mild Cognitive Impairment. Other than walking, which she can do for hours daily, if not at a time, she has no ideas for filling the day. At home, she does still visit the library regularly, and brings books home, but, by her own sheepish admission, she often returns them unfinished (as I reassured her, it's not as if there's going to be a test). Previously a talented knitter and seamstress, capable of turning out garments without relying on a pattern, she started a pair of socks six or eight months ago, but left them as ornamentation on her coffee table (the yarn is a colour that matches her cushions!). Occasionally, she'll start something simple at someone's prodding -- one of those cotton dishcloths, a baby neckwarmer -- but she never perseveres.
Having a non-reading guest is a challenge, especially since I feel an obligation to entertain her. I don't so much mind answering questions for the third and fourth time, but do get exhausted by the afternoon. Luckily, Pater is so very patient, and he also reminds me that I don't need to take on responsibility so completely -- he sees her as quite content even if she's just sitting on her own in a chair. He makes sure she has a good view, then lets her be.
Last night, I remembered, brilliantly, that I had the DVD of Ratatouille tucked away somewhere -- we had two very pleasant hours watching it together with her laughing delightedly. I've dug up Finding Nemo and hope that will do the same trick this evening.
Meanwhile, I'm drawing on the patience that the Acanthus finally rewarded me for, although all too conscious, sadly, that the blooms I'd hoped to draw forth from my mother are gone for good. Different compensations must be found, perhaps in the patience itself rather than in any expectation of reward. Must. get. to. zen. . .


  1. Acanthus are my nemesis. I have to fight to keep them from taking over.

  2. Awkward times, emotional challenges, but nevertheless, times spent together connecting.
    It is sad to watch as I have recently seen with my own mother as her memory is starting to fail.
    It is great that your mother is able to walk for hours, mine cannot and I wish we could walk together.

    Life does change...and we can't fight it just accept and with any luck, find that "Zen place"

    Poignant post mater...

  3. I remember learning that acanthus are good shade plants, maybe the little bit extra from the pergola was just what it needed?

    I hear you regarding you mom. I think Pater has the right idea; she may be quite content to just be in the moment, and relax with a nice view. Our Patience Required family situation is focused in the other generational direction, and sometimes the Zen is illusive. As are new ways to keep an energetic 13-year-old entertained on weekends! But we slog on.

  4. You are being very philosophical - it must be hard to watch your mother change like this ... And you're lucky you have such a patient partner in Pater. How I hope that when I am older I don't lose the ability to read or finish things; but as this is of course possible, perhaps it's a reminder to make the most of now.
    Thank you for sharing what must be difficult ...

  5. illusive should be elusive. Spelling gremlins strike again!

  6. The acanthus is beautiful. It is not hardy here.

    Life changes so. Enjoy the moments you do have with your mom.

  7. It is extraordinary what a wonderful teacher nature can be. Acanthus taught you patience just as you needed it. I hope your time with your mother presents unexpected blossoms.

  8. Somehow I missed yesterday's post - lovely family pictures! Congrats to Daughter No. 3 (is that Megan?) and her fiancé. And Nola - wow, when did she become a little girl?

    It's so nice that you can have your mum over to visit. I'm sure she is happy just spending the time with you, enjoying your home and your garden. She has everything she needs. Patricia

  9. Somehow I missed yesterday's post - lovely family pictures! Congrats to Daughter No. 3 (is that Megan?) and her fiancé. And Nola - wow, when did she become a little girl?

    It's so nice that you can have your mum over to visit. I'm sure she is happy just spending the time with you, enjoying your home and your garden. She has everything she needs. Patricia

  10. LPC: That's hard to imagine here, at this point, but perhaps they will become my nemesis as well. I admire the large blocks of them that we've seen in Paris and London and would love them to make a bigger show here, but will keep your caution in mind. ;-)
    Hostess: I'm glad mom's fitness is so good, but the memory loss and cognitive impairment is very disconcerting -- still, we'll manage to make the most of our time here.
    Pseu: The shade does seem to do the trick!
    And ah, do I remember the energy of a 13-year old boy -- good luck with that!

  11. Tiffany: It's certainly a learning experience! In some ways, it's the easiest I've ever found our relationship to be; in others, it's quite difficult -- especially when I think how small the gap really easy between where I am age-wise, and where she is . . . I would HATE not to be able to read!
    Mardel: I hear the wisdom and the experience in your voice here -- thank you!
    LBR: I think the bloom I'm finding is my own recognition of hopes I still had -- and the learning how to let them go.
    Patricia: Your response is lovely because it reminds me to look across the generations at my blessings -- thank you!

  12. Yes, I feel your pain. Very similar to my mother you too suffer from that constant niggling feeling that when she visits she should somehow be 'entertained' in some way.
    I walk mine with the dog and end up making trite conversation. On holiday I was blessed that she read a lot as she point blank refuses to watch DVD's. The other bonus is she loves radio 4 and carries a little radio with her. I pray I do not become such a millstone, and then feel mean for even thinking that!

  13. Alison: Mine never expresses boredom or expectation, which almost makes it worse. She'll just sit, but then I find it sooooo awkward.
    I should have thought of the radio -- mom used to really like our National Radio, CBC, altho' the programming has changed in recent years to attract a younger crowd, so isn't quite as suited to her. I ended up buying one of those little DVD players and a swack of old classic DVDs -- she was quite enjoying Singin' in the Rain -- but whether or not she'll remember how to set it up again when she gets home is another story.
    And yes, I feel mean almost no matter what . . .


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