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Saturday, January 29, 2011

My mum...........

For the past year my mum, who is now 86, has been in decline.  We visited mum and dad today and I came home with mixed feelings.  She smiled and laughed today for the first time in a year.  Depression and indifference seems to have been all she has known as the ageing process takes a stronger hold - yet, today, her blurred thoughts and confused mind somehow caused her to forget what she's been depressed about, and she chuckled and smiled.  It was good to see....  yet sad also, to look on this little old frail woman who is my mum - the person that gave me so much of what is good in my life.

Both my parents love plants and the garden my older brother and I grew up with was a joy.  There was something in it for all of us.  Mum and dad had their rose garden.  Together, they would choose some new roses from a catalogue on an annual basis, and they would let Ian and I choose one too.  My dad didn't do things by half..... he used to test the soil for its acid and alkaline content, add various organic materials to it so it would be perfect for the roses which he would prune at just the right angle and at just the right time.  He even got to be quite an expert at grafting them too.  He laid pipes under the soil to help with the drainage and he especially liked to take care of the lawns by carefully edging them, mowing them and then going over them with a roller.  

Despite the attention lavished on the garden, it wasn't a show garden.  My dad made a mini putting course on one of the lawns, complete with holes and markers.... and we were always having picnics on the grass, especially when joined by members of the extended family.  We were never told to keep off the grass or not to pick this or that, etc.  It was a garden that was enjoyed by the family.  Against one wall was the rabbit hutch and run that my dad built.  One day mum got in a panic because she thought I had disappeared with my friend, when all the time we had snuck inside the rabbit hutch along with Candy, Floss and Titch!  On one of the borders was a section that was given to me, where I learned to grow my first seeds..... radishes.

Mum always had a vase of cut flowers in the living-room, taken from our garden and when I gave birth to my eldest son in hospital, dad brought me a huge bunch of roses, mixed with other garden blooms - the nurses admired them so much that he brought a bunch for them at his next visit.  

I remember a navy cord jacket that mum wore when I was a child.  To me, it seemed to smell of plums!  Then, one day when I was much older, I was walking beside the river and I could smell that familiar scent. After a while,  I realised it was coming from the Himalayan Balsam that was growing alongside the river...... the scent was just like mum's jacket!  So now, the scents that I associate with my mum are plums, Himalayan Balsam...... and most of all, her favourite perfume - Coty L'Aimant (which has nothing at all to do with gardening!). 

I'm so glad that my parents were not only such keen gardeners, but that they allowed my brother and I to enjoy the garden without the fear of 'spoiling' anything in it.  My love of the outdoors has been gifted to me by my parents, but not only that - my faith also, for it was in the outdoors that I found it.  I love you mum and dad.


  1. We live so much longer but at what cost. It's awful to see our loved ones this way. As you say Lesley, you came away with mixed feelings. It's very hard.
    To hear about your family garden was delighful. Exactly how a garden should be. Enjoyed by everyone. I can see where your love of gardening stems from now.
    Roll on the spring so you can really get stuck in.

  2. A delightful post dear Lesley in that I enjoyed reading about your parents, their garden and your childhood, there are so many similarities between us.
    My parents loved gardening also, that is where I get my love of plants from, especially my Mum, she said she always felt at peace in her garden and close to God.
    It was a friendly place like yours, the lawn was there for all to enjoy,I could pick flowers if I wished.
    I had my own patch of garden in which I grew annuals and perennnials, when I was very young I believe my first flowers were geraniums and alysium.
    It is amazing how our sense of smell can evoke thoughts and memories of people and places.
    I am pleased that your Mum smiled and had some happines in her day, I hope she has many more like that.
    My Mum's last years were those of confusion because of the dementia, but she never lost her ability to show affection and her sweet nature.
    It is very sad to watch our parents in their declining years when we can remember how young and vital they once were.
    My thoughts are with you dear, I know how hard it is and how it makes you feel.
    xoxoxo ♥

  3. I'm wiping away the tears as I write this...

    I am so fortunate that my own parents have not yet begun that decline, for I know how heartbreaking it must be to see the parent who once held you now too feeble to hold more than your hand; the parent who once scolded you for not eating your vegetables now too indifferent to care about her own food.

    But what a wonderful legacy she has bestowed upon you and Ian, she and your Dad both. The way they tended their garden reflects what kind of parents they are - loving, caring, but with no expectations of perfection - no show garden, just a happy place for happy children, but beautiful and well tended, none the less.

    Take them flowers from your own garden. Include some that your remember from theirs. And tell them some of the stories you've just told us.

    I'd love for you to see your Mom smile and laugh again.

  4. A beautiful and skilled piece of prose.
    It is so difficult watching people deteriorate. I would go so far as to say unfair to all concerned.
    Smile a little smile.

  5. i hate the word depression. For about 5 years doctors kept telling me I was clinically depressed and I kept saying "no, I'm upset about what happened to me which was traumatic" There is a difference. Being sad to be immobile, or having to depend on others because of age to me seems natural, and not depression at all. But thats just me rebelling against whatever people call truth. What a lovely story about your parents and the garden they raised you in. :-)

  6. Thank you everyone, for your responses. You've made my day.

    John Thanks John. Yes, mum and dad passed on a lot of good qualities..... a love of the outdoors and animals and nature - some not so good, such as a hot celtic temper! :D I've managed to put in the odd day here and there with our new garden, but I still need the ground to dry out a lot before I can do much more with it. It wont be long now. :)

    Dianne Thanks Dianne. Our childhood gardens do indeed sound similar. :) It's lovely how your mum maintained a sweet nature throughout her life despite the dementia..... I'm afraid my mum demonstrates a mix of emotions, which can be quite difficult for my dad to cope with. He's older than she is and will be 91 this May. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts.

    Ethelmae Hi Ethelmae. I had to smile at the bit you mentioned about being scolded for not eating our vegetables. I was often scolded at meal times and I think I must have become a veggie at a very young age.... as I would pass my meat to Trixie, our dog, who sat under the dinner table. :D I couldn't bear the texture of meat, it made me feel sick.

    ... loving, caring, but with no expectations of perfection... I love what you wrote in that passage, Ethelmae. I never really saw it like that and will remember it just exactly as you put it...... and I will take them some flowers. :)

    Adrian Thank you Adrian. I needed to write something.... I needed to communicate because of the way I felt as I came home - and it really has helped. Smiles to you also. (I'll get caught up with responding to recent posts some time tonight, I think) :)

    Nancy Hi Nancy. I understand what you're saying and can remember being in that situation myself some years ago. I remember the frustration at being, what I felt, wrongly diagnosed when all I wanted was some practical advice. In my mum's case, her eldest sister died just over a year ago and, since then, she has never been able to laugh or cry (until yesterday when she did have a bit laugh.... albeit she was talking to Billy Connolly the comedian and not to us!). What you say makes a lot of sense and I think the gradual loss of the abilities she once had is compounding the way she is feeling. We're all trying hard to make life better for her in practical ways, but my mum is a very stubborn woman and refuses much help..... but that's another story! :O)

  7. Lesley, what a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your memories.
    I am at a similar place with my parents. Aging sucks, especially when the end approaches. My 84 year old Dad said yesterday, "I guess I won't be around much longer and I'm not sure I'd want to be anyway."
    He is getting tired of life, I think.
    But how wonderful that your parents gave you such gifts, especially an appreciation of the garden and the natural world.

  8. Hi Deedee :) My gran said that often when she was very old. She lived till she was 92. It musn't be very nice when the mind is active, but the body lets you down.

  9. Isn't it amazing how a scent can conjure up a memory.

    When I was about 14, my mother planted gardenias by the front porch. When the first one bloomed, I smelled the flower, and immediately said "Grandmother grew these, didn't she?" My parents were amazed because Grandmother died when I was 5. The memory of the smell of her garden was with me, unknown, all that time.