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In Roseleaf Gardens

The lawns that grow out from the central fountain are freshly mown and the wet scent of Spring clover is spread by the Spring breeze. In the shaded patio under the slatted roof they sit in a pool of quiet that is only shaken by the rumble of distant dump trucks coming down the Skyway from  Paradise. Those truckloads of ash and plastic and other detritus of the fires are bound somewhere, somewhere out there beyond the orchards of Orland and the great greening rice paddies of the central valley. None of this is their concern. They are only concerned with sitting together in the pool of quiet as the last Spring unfolds around them.

Her hands are almost skeletal but her rings of turquoise, moonstone, and opal are still on her fingers. Her skin is glassine and is easily abraded and made raw. When this happens the place where they are must call in a night nurse from another organization since they are not permitted to render even the service of bandaging without permission. Most of the time when he notices these injuries he doesn’t bother the institutions that shelter her. He takes out his kit from the car and does what he can, but she’s quick to injure and slow to heal.

In the gardens, the days are long and the years are short but they stay in the hour and find each breeze a pleasant and cool surprise in the slatted shade of the patio. There are others living at the gardens but most are confined to their rooms by their bodies or their minds and are seldom seen. For the most part, the gardens and the lawns are theirs.

“I think that’s a strange tree over there by the street. It’s all shaggy on the trunk and then it has that spiky hairdo on top.”

“It’s a palm tree. A big one.”

“Oh yes,  a palm tree. I see that now.”

She has her hands folded together in a kind of handshake so that she can know where her hands are when she needs them.

“Can I please have some cranberry juice?”

“Sure thing,” and he places the spill-proof cup with the flex straw in her hands and watches carefully as she drinks, ready to catch the cup should it slip from her lips. This time it does not.

There is nobody else in the gardens and nothing at all is happening in the gardens. Nothing, at any rate, that can be seen.

And so they sit there next to each other. After a while he holds her hands and pats them, thinking to himself, “Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.”

In the gardens the sun is warm and the May breeze is cool. And even though evening is coming on, the afternoon is as good an afternoon as anyone, at this late date, is likely to get.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kurt Miller May 3, 2019, 5:13 PM

    God bless you and your mother, bless you and hold you close to His heart as you walk this path together.

  • Mike May 3, 2019, 5:41 PM

    You’re a good man.

    My brother is doing the same for my parents. He lives close. I live far. I’m in his debt.

  • AlexandriaDumas May 3, 2019, 7:22 PM

    This may be the most important time of a person’s life. They have no choice but to let us serve; they show us grace. God is in control. All, all, is well. Tell your mother for me.

  • PA Cat May 3, 2019, 8:02 PM

    How lovely to see that red still becomes her. Keep making every day Mother’s Day for her, Gerard.

  • Charles Sivley May 3, 2019, 8:50 PM

    The pain must be fierce but the chance to care, care for the one who so cared for you must be satisfying. I know the pain but not the chance to care. God bless you and your mother in these times.

  • Julie May 3, 2019, 9:08 PM

    God bless you both, with each precious moment you have together.

  • Matt May 3, 2019, 10:01 PM

    It’s so good you get this chance to say “I love you “ before she leaps into the next life. Can you imagine what it’s like for one who’s lived so long to feel eighteen again?

  • PatriotUSA May 3, 2019, 10:41 PM

    You are a very good son a very decent chap. I love your writing and thank you for sharing your mother with us. Brings tears to me eyes but that is OK. May the Lord bless you and your mum and the time you have together. It is great you are so close. I was 2000 miles from my mum and she refused to let us care for her. She did not want to be a burden. It would not have been a burden at for us. You are both blessed, muchly so.

  • MMinLamesa May 3, 2019, 10:46 PM

    That was very nice-bless you dude. And your Mom.

  • Jaynie May 4, 2019, 4:05 AM

    A hard place indeed. May God shower grace and blessings on your Mother and you.

  • Steven Wright May 4, 2019, 5:14 AM

    God has blessed you beyond measure Gerard. I know, that you know it.

  • Annie Rose May 4, 2019, 5:16 AM

    I live vicariously through your loving posts about your mom, imagining that she is my mom and we have had a close loving relationship through the years. My reality with my mom is the exact opposite. I will travel soon to spend time caring for her. Already I am bracing for her cruel words-words I’ve heard since my earliest memories of life. I will then try to imagine that she is your mom and give her the love that she cannot allow herself to feel for others. Bless you for your column and for being such a good son. Thank you for sharing your mom with those of us also traveling on a journey with our elderly parents.

  • John the River May 4, 2019, 7:57 AM

    The path of my mothers decline was roughly eleven months. I got to know her roommate and her family, I learned the first names of the regular staff on her floor. The ‘Air Bed’ had a tendency to lose pressure, especially if the person changing the sheets loosened the hose, then Mom’s spine came in contact with the steel of the bed-frame. Had to be checked. The spilled food needed to be picked up or cleaned, lest it attract bugs. Frequent inquiries at the nurses desk on her food intake. Two or three times a week bring something special, usually a lobster roll (her favorite) and every day come in with a chocolate frappe. And a straw, suck it Cali!
    She passed last October, sorrowfully she feared death. She always was unsure about trying something different, she always wanted someone to assure her that the new thing was the right thing to do. I tried, her minister tried, the hospice volunteer tried; I don’t think we really convinced her that it was time.
    It was unlike any other period of my life, difficult but special. My lady told me this,”You’ll never have to reproach yourself that you didn’t do enough”. I hope so.
    You and your mother will be in my thoughts, Gerard. On Sunday I’ll pray. God’s peace.

  • leelu May 4, 2019, 8:35 AM

    You are doing well in a situation I know to be bone crushing. Your love for her seems deep and strong. Draw on that, for both her and you.

  • JiminAlaska May 4, 2019, 9:01 AM

    Supplying comfort, condolences, etc., not my strongest suit.

    When my dad was in his dotage, upset about things he couldn’t do for himself, best I could do was remind him; “Hey, you paid your dues!” He’d think about it and allow, hell yea he did and little as it was, it helped him through the days.

  • JB May 4, 2019, 10:18 AM

    How beautiful. Your words speak to my heart, it’s exactly how I feel about my mom. Your witness to caring for our families when they are old and sick is so important. I have sharing this with everyone I know. God bless you both🙏

  • Hangtown Bob and Peg May 4, 2019, 12:06 PM

    After the cold wet winter that seemed as if it wouldn’t cease, we are finally blessed with a beautiful Spring, a time of re-birth. You are blessed to be able to share this time with your Mom. So many of us have never had the opportunity to assist in making someone’s last days a glorious tribute to God and His creations.

    Please say “Hi” and give our love to your Mom.

  • lpdbw May 4, 2019, 12:25 PM

    I hope you have people taking care of you, while you’re taking such good care of your mother.

    Please see to it that you also nurture yourself.

  • mary defries May 4, 2019, 3:41 PM

    All the comments are correct. Let me add that my mom deserved a child like you, but she got me. You have such grace.

  • Pamela Schieber May 4, 2019, 4:06 PM

    Your writing brings me so much pleasure, that when Paradise became Hell I cried and prayed for you. Your mother is blessed to have such a wonderful and caring son. My mother is still managing at 91, but I know she and my 94 year old dad cannot last forever. You have shown me what a good and decent son or daughter must do as the end on this earth draws near.

  • H May 4, 2019, 4:33 PM

    What a good son you are, Van der Leun.

  • Jim B May 4, 2019, 6:22 PM

    No matter our age, every day is a gift.
    The peace and grace of God to you both.

  • Lance de Boyle May 4, 2019, 6:42 PM

    Mom Vanderleun is in blessed hands on this side, Gerard, because you are with her, and will be in blessed hands hereafter.

  • Alex C May 4, 2019, 7:47 PM

    God bless. To have your child next to you is the best feeling ever. That you make this feeling real for your mother makes you a good man.

  • Ca May 5, 2019, 12:03 PM

    God bless you both.

  • Carl Geier MD May 6, 2019, 2:52 PM

    Gerard, if I can intrude with a practical comment, when you bandage your mothers’ superficial wounds, choose your bandage from an assortment of waterproof bandaids that will do their best to pull things together and and provide coverage. Waterproof bandaids are an invention that are vastly underated in the list of things that make life better. With younger people with thicker skin, fairly significant lacerations can be healed with only super glue and waterproof bandages.

  • Anonymous May 6, 2019, 10:49 PM

    You are a good man, a mensch, un buen hombre, G.

  • Daniel May 9, 2019, 8:34 PM

    Thank you. I lost my mom in June of 2000 quite suddenly. Thank you for sharing your mom with me. Oh dear. Peace and blessings to you both.