Time Machine

Flashback, September 1999:

Jacquelynn and I have been dating exclusively since late July, and she has invited me out for this gorgeous Saturday to visit the maze at Grailville and perhaps to walk a while along the beautiful wooded Loveland Bike Trail. It’s an almost 3-hour drive from where I’m staying with My sister and mom, so I get an early start, but I do make one unannounced stop on the way…

When I arrive at her (now our) home, I greet her with the freshly toasted bagels I had promised from Skip’s. Her favorite is a simple toasted and buttered sesame seed bagel, while I always got some sweetened-cream-cheese-slathered monstrosity encrusted with crunchy cinnamon or something similar.   As she savors the fresh-baked smell of breakfast, I reach into my front seat and hand her a small, 4″ potted miniature rose bush.

Now, Jacquelynn is NOT one for grand gestures. She much prefers a hand-drawn greeting card to $60 worth of flowers that’ll be in the trash bin in less than a week, and this humble little rose bush lit up her face like a hundred sunrises. She couldn’t wait to get it in the ground, and I ended up warming her bagel in the oven later that afternoon, as she absolutely had to plant her new roses in the lee of the large volcanic boulder in her front landscaping.

That little plant was apparently quite happy in its new home, as it flourished almost instantly.   Within a week, it had rebounded from the shock of planting and put forth a handful of bright late summer blooms before relaxing into its winter stasis.

In the ensuing years, every year saw it bloom bigger and brighter than we could ever have expected.   At its peak in (I think it was) 2014, it stood over 18″ tall. One afternoon that summer, despite my best intentions, I got bored and stopped counting at 300 blooms.

It was late that year that our beloved rose began to dwindle. The pear tree had contracted a blight that spring, and we thought that, just perhaps, the rose had as well.

But the next year was worse. It bloomed, but much less brightly and with far fewer flowers than it had in many years. By 2016, it was the merest shadow of itself, as the sage and succulents that had previously served to highlight it began to encroach upon its space. The bush’s once vibrant leaves were laced with holes from every but that could find it’s withered and drying frame.

2017, of course, brought much darkness and fear into our lives, and our tiny rose bush seemed to embody that; it produced neither leaf nor flower, and the remaining branches were dry as beached driftwood. You had to dig through sage and phlox to see even that, as the once-majestic mini rose appeared to have retreated into the shadow of the boulder which had protected it for so many winters.

Yesterday was Friday, 18th May 2018, and I spent the morning celebrating the fresh growth of flowers around our house. My beloved irises are in full form this year after a couple of still-productive-but-slightly-off years, and the flowering trees in the back are attracting hummingbirds almost in flocks. Even my gigantic apricot-colored rose bush in back has three strong-looking buds sucking water from the soil. I miss my failed dwarf lilac trees from a few years back, but that was entirely my fault. I’ll try again eventually.

I photographed all this and joyfully posted all of them on Facebook, Jacquelynn watching over my shoulder, ooh-ing and ahh-ing all the while. So when we set out on our late-morning walk, I was startled when she walked up to get a close look at the irises out front and gasped loudly.

I’ve become to recognize alarm from her, and I seldom expect good things when I hear it. so imagine my surprise when she beckoned to me and pointed at the boulder.

The lead photograph for this post is what she called out to show me. There, in all it’s glory, was our tiny warrior of a rose bush, pushing bright and brilliant new flowers into the world. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the dead had risen and shone it’s light upon our faces.

I believe in signs.   I believe without hesitation that God/Buddha/The Universe uses our every sense as its voice, if only we’re listening and willing to hear.

You may remember me writing about coming upon a certain song at the moment when I most needed to hear it.   These moments are not accidental and they are not to be ignored or dismissed.

In hindsight:

This little bush began to wither and suffer just as our approximate timetable tells us that illness began its vile work on Jacquelynn. At her darkest hour, for all appearances, it died. Just as her doctors were pretty adamant that she was doing. But she defied those expectations, and now her rose, the very first live flowers I ever gave her, has done the same. This morning, a third full bloom was added to its display, and the soil around it has cleared as the other plants seemingly make way for its triumphant return.

Our walk was glorious, of course. A beautiful morning spent hand-in-hand, chatting with neighbors doing their planting and basking in the sun and breeze. There was more bounce in Jacquelynn’s step as she smoothly stepped over and around buckled cracks in the sidewalk which would normally be cause for greatly elevated caution. She danced lightly around the goose poop that I would typically have to warn her to avoid. She smiled and waived and “How are You”d her way joyfully around the neighborhood like she had never been sick a day in her life.

 

Yeah, it’s going to be an awesome year.

Low Ebb

It’s a feeling that I won’t deny. Yes, some days I feel totally spent and unable to cope. Of course, it’s often on these days that Jacquelynn feels much the same (because like attracts and creates like!). This creates a spiral descent, a Coriolis-effect flushing of all hope for the day right down the cosmic shitter.

 

As terrific a day as yesterday was, today seems destined for the sewage treatment plant.

 

Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can be “The Strong One”. We’ve had difficulties recently (one reason for my silence here), but I’ve found my strength every time and even come to the realization that many of them were inarguably my fault. My insecurities and fears and, yes, bitterness, have surfaced many times, making already tense situations SO much worse and driving Jacquelynn more than once into tears and worse.

So, I’ve found ways to face those fears and insecurities head-on and come to grips with them. I have, through meditation, prayer, and many hours of self-talk faced many demons these past few weeks. I feel as if I’ve quelled most of them, too.

But I’m still so fucking tired.

How many more days can I tell her six times that it’s time for her pills and endure her sagging shoulders and choked-back tears. She’s tired too, you know. As hard as I’m working to help, all the real work is on her shoulders, and they aren’t particularly broad or robust shoulders these days. So there are days and weeks in which she just feels so defeated and tired of the endless work, and I certainly can’t blame her for that.

She needs me, and I need her, but I’m still SO fucking tired.

Not sleepy. I get halfway decent sleep probably about half the time, so this isn’t that kind of tired. It’s the spirit-tired of looking at plans you had and knowing they’re gone forever. That day trip to visit my family and friends in Indy, or my much-loved forays up to Lexington Ohio in July for Vintage Motorcycle Days. The bucket-list items like riding Route 66 coast-to-coast and to Alaska to see the Aurora.

Those things aren’t going to happen. Don’t mistake me: Ten minutes with Jacquelynn is more important to me than all of that combined, but that doesn’t fill the hole left by accepting their loss.

She too is feeling a similar loss. At times, I’ll catch her sobbing and she’ll explain how she misses working and that leads to the feeling that she’ll never work again. Knowing that she’s going to be on this program for the remainder of her life often makes her feel like it’s all a great waste of effort until I remind her how very far she’s come. The reminder that without this great effort, she’d most likely be institutionalized by now and not have even the slightest clue who I am, let alone be essentially destitute as well sometimes helps ground her then.

The same thought also helps ground me, too. I’m always cognizant of it, obviously, but there are occasions when all the progress seems for naught, or even to disappear entirely for several moments, and those times inevitably terrify me. So, I review my notes, or I talk to her or just hold her for a while, and I spend some short while in simple gratitude for today, for this single minute with her in my arms.

There are low ebb days.   It’s probably inescapable that there will be. Days like today when Jacquelynn can pick up so easily on my mood and despair that she comes to me on the verge of tears and says, “You just look so sad…” and I can’t do anything but agree and apologize. I just have to admit to her that I am just so, so fucking tired. And I’ll agree to her suggestion that we take a nap. And while she dozes, I’ll quietly type away…