Sunday, 8 February 2015
Just a few days into January, my mother takes a fall in her home and sustains a complicated fracture of her right shoulder. She is admitted to hospital where it is deemed appropriate to replace the shattered joint with an artificial one fashioned from titanium. The evidence of her increasing frailty is borne heavily upon myself and my two sisters, and we each have serious concerns about the suitability and safety of her beloved house and garden , although she herself is determined to continue living there as long as is possible.
There are no words to describe the measure of alarm and anxiety that I experience on her behalf when I consider the house and garden in the light of her return from hospital. Much needs to be changed to render both safe and comfortable, some of it beyond our scope both financially, and in terms of our collective skills. Not for the first time, albeit not without a jolt of disloyalty and grief, do I wish fervently that she was already installed in a house of more modest size, with garden just enough for her to enjoy her array of ornamental pots and containers, which she has a genius for making beautiful with bright annuals and spring bulbs, in a smaller, less unfriendly town, with amenities to hand, the thriving, busy heart of a welcoming little town within walking distance.
In my mother's garden. snowdrops are beginning to flower in their customary places; discrete gatherings beneath the old privet hedge, sizable colonies in the lawn. Crocus are also showing pale spears above the lean winter grass, and the hellebores are a mass of creamy, roseate blooms. I feel keenly for my mother, who has been so far unable to go out into the garden to see them. Walking in the garden, a heavy frost glittering upon the lawns, lonely without the the company of our two cats, who are now, for safety's sake, removed to Somerset, I am overcome by a storm of conflicting emotions. I am painfully aware, that despite my mother's vigour of mind, and great love, the bequeathed garden is too big for her to manage on her own, yet my heart quails at the thought of her having to give it up, to tear the roots that bind us all to this place. Reason instructs me that perhaps it is time to allow a younger family to live there and love it as we have done; we have had our day, yet our mother, although she has confided to each of us in turn her own fears concerning her abilities to continue to live there, is most unwilling to relinquish the house and garden, which harbour so many memories. Speaking with my sisters, I find that my youngest sister and I are united in our feelings of heartbreak, although my younger sister , the sister in the middle, has attuned herself to the eventual relinquishment of our family home, and that all three of us share the desire to see our mother settled contentedly in a safer, more suitable environment.
The first month of the new year passes with much unsettling change and challenge, and in a flurry of visits to our mother. The days lengthen appreciably, the garden is alternately rimed by frost and scoured by bitter north easterly winds; a couple of times the lawns are dusted by the sparkle of light snowfall. The garden appears at first glance to be steeped in slumber, yet closer insepection reveals the presence of a multitude of elegant, pointed buds on the Ribes, the clusters of fragile, early flowering bulbs, the ruby red tips of the emerging peony buds. Our garden chairs remain almost in the positions they occupied throughout the months of Summer and Autumn, when my mother and I sipped wine in the long light evenings, took tea and coffee during breaks from our labours. I cannot help but wonder whether we shall do so again, and I know that this thought is not far from my mother's own mind. I take a photograph of the chairs, pools of water frozen in each, as a keepsake, my heart full to bursting within me, for at present it is well nigh impossible to believe that we shall be able to resume our former relationship with the cherished garden.