As a very young girl, I spent many a Saturday afternoon outside helping my parents with yard work. I usually got the chore of picking up sticks. Mom seemed to love it. She was always picking up sticks – even during the work week. I didn’t like picking up sticks. It was boring. I wanted to use the push mower. It looked like so much fun. I begged and pleaded with Dad and finally wore him down. He started up the mower for me, and I took my first swipe around a large stump. Weed-eaters didn’t exist back then. We used a pair of manual hand-clippers around the trees. (Squeeze hand. Clip grass. Get a hand cramp. Squeeze hand. Clip grass. Is that a blister?) It took forever. I figured if I could get close enough to the stumps, I could alleviate that chore.
So, in my first swipe, I totally succeeded. I got very close to the stump. And, with my second swipe, I created a wide, deep line straight through the middle of the bright green grass. Dad sprinted in my direction, frantically waving his hands in the air. (OH NO, IS THERE A BEE BEHIND ME?) He grabbed the mower handle from my hands and quickly turned off the engine. He never said a word. He simply looked at the close-shaven line that ran through the entire back yard and shook his head. Later that morning, we headed to the hardware store, and Dad bought a new mower blade. I didn’t understand why we needed a new blade. Ours was working perfectly earlier this morning. It wasn’t until a few days later, when the wide, deep line turned a drab shade of yellow that I understood what had happened. Even then, Dad never said a word, but it was years before I was allowed to use the push mower again. I was banished back to the sticks.
Fast forward to present day. Mom is tired. The chemo is wreaking havoc. She’s frustrated. I’m anxious. Dad’s worried. There must be something I can do. I research her symptoms online, write down the list of recommended foods, and go shopping. I take the food to Mom, but she’s not hungry. I hover. They send me shopping for more supplies. I return and hover some more. This is nothing I can do. NOTHING.
I call her every day, twice a day. Two days later, she tells me she’s called the hospital ER for advice. She won’t go to the ER, and she won’t call 911 for an ambulance. I should go visit her again, I think. Maybe I can talk her into going to the hospital – then again, maybe not. I already know how that discussion will go. Mother knows best.
I walk outside. The bright sun is warm on my face. Daffodils sway in the breeze. In the yard, I see sticks. We had some wind the night before. I start picking them up without thinking. My hands become full. I walk around to the back yard and get the wheelbarrow. I spy a dead limb on a nearby shrub. I walk over with the intention of snapping off a single twig, but half the darn plant breaks off in my hands. I have a mini-meltdown. My handsaw is nearby. I slash. I hack. I sever. I carve. I chop. (I get out my thesaurus!) Five minutes later, the shrub is gone. Only a small stump remains. I feel better, but I’m not sure why. Mom is still sick, and I can’t fix it.
Looking back, I remember how Mom loved to work outside – picking up sticks, planting flowers, pulling weeds, growing a garden full of vegetables. And, suddenly, I think I understand. (Light bulb!) It was something she could control. Something she had created. The crap of life continued, but she made her part of the world just a little better, a little brighter. Mother knows best.