Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Weeding the garden

I had today off, and woke filled with thoughts of doing a number of pleasing creative projects, having just jumped over the hump of bill-paying, bookkeeping and account reckoning (three weeks tardy for this month, but all caught up and recorded through next month.  Enormous relief.)

Yet I lingered in bed on this beautiful morning, as I usually do.    When I ventured outside the room, A. needed help finding a pair of pants he had put away but forgot where.  He asked for three books to be downloaded from Talking Books and put on a flash drive for his reader.  I cleaned up some clutter in the kitchen, paid a couple of bills and ordered new checks while waiting for the books to download.  Finally ate my cereal at around 11 am.  

Then went out to A's garden with him to weed. A. used to be a talented and enthusiastic gardener.   I have never been a gardener.  Although I have always appreciated his beautiful garden, I have always preferred to walk, take photos, listen to birds, watch the clouds.  A. has taught me the little I know about the garden.  Today the weeds were extensive, and they were confusing to me, as I  really don't know what I am doing.  A. no longer recognizes any of his plants, does not know how to tend them, and cannot distinguish between what is a weed and what are the plants.  

This is painful for both of us--it has brought each of us to tears many times.   

Today I set him near some weeds and showed him how to pull them, then started in the garden myself.  Spent about 1 1/2 hours there.  I had started to weed last weekend, and today managed to get around to about two thirds of the garden.   So many dense, long lateral-trailing roots to remove.  Unsure if I was pulling up good plants  in the process.  It is certain this garden has not been weeded in at least two years.  

I looked over after about 1/2 hour of our quietly working together in different areas, only to find A pulling out grass by  clumps outside the stones that ring the garden, leaving a large dirt area where the grass should be.  I re-directed him to the weeds inside the stone ring, but he had no idea what I was talking about when I referred to "inside" the stone border.  Explaining this took about 10 repetitions, and I could tell he still did not understand. Much of the time he was not even looking where I was pointing.    Twice I put a stone marker where there were numerous weeds.  He said he still could not "see" them.  Didn't know what I was referring to when I said, "Pull out these plants here."  

When I thought he was finally in an appropriate place, I went back to weeding, only to look over and find him pulling up grass again outside the garden.  

I re-directed him again, but he kept losing focus, interest, or his place.  Said he didn't want to do this, he doesn't know how to do it, and he "doesn't have to".  I got him a scissors and encouraged him to cut the grass shorter at the edge of the stones where the mower can't reach, as this appeared to be  upsetting to him and likely was the cause of his pulling up the lawn.  He settled down to it,  like a hair stylist creating a punk "do"--cutting one blade at a time, leaving adjacent blades long.  Then he abruptly went inside, leaving all weeds, tools and containers for me to deal with.

I came inside about a half hour later and found him sound asleep in his chair.

I still had another plant to pot, but a hole needed to be drilled in the bottom of the pot and I was by then tired and frustrated and hot.  Using power tools scares me, and is another thing I've never had to do, so I have no confidence or skill.    So at around 1:30,  I had a cold drink and read the paper.  Soon I  found myself dozing in my chair while watching clouds, so I went to bed and instantly fell asleep.  After I woke, I was sure that there would be still more of his  needs that had to be met waiting for me when I rose.  (And there were.)  There was also supper to prepare, a couple of work calls to make.  Wash to do.  Mail to get and go through.  

My free day for creativity was shot.  Not wanting to face all those further interruptions, I just lay in bed, awake.  Trying to capture some peace, if not creativity, in the day.

This is how I spend my life. Doing the best I can to be loving and supportive to this man who looks like the man I married, but is actually anywhere from 10 years old to 2--in an old man's body.  

I miss my husband, my partner, MY helper and supporter.  He has gone away.  For good.  

...and left me alone  with this often-helpless man-child to love and to find a way to cherish.



  1. My husband is the gardener, but unlike you, I do know what the plants look like and I sympathize with the fact that you're having trouble with this. How sad to keep having to re-direct him, only to have him not understand what you mean. He has gotten much worse over the past year, hasn't he, mike?
    I think of you often, and I'm thankful for all that I have. Especially with the fact that my husband isn't at this stage yet. Really thankful for that. xo

  2. Oh dear, I just read your last two posts and my heart goes out to you. I know how you treasure your time and how wrenching it is to try to help and think that nothing you do helps your loved one.
    But I would say that is not true. Even though he is alternately blank or irritated/frustrated, you are loving and supporting him. He may not see it, but others do.
    And you are trying to support him in activities he loved. That, I have been told is what "the research supports" in terms of engaging those with dementia. For my mother, that means matching outfits. For Ray, it may mean gardening. But can you make the task smaller? Less overwhelming. Do away with the garden (or bring in someone to weed it). Let Ray tend one or two pots? Tend for 10 minutes at a time. Not hours.
    Thinking of you.

  3. I have seen the changes in my mother, the blank stare I get when she is confused by what I say, what started out slowly has progressed, my heart aches. I often like to think that although we can no longer reach them like we did, that somehow our touch and the sound of our voice still comforts them in their new lost world. Bless you