In the spring of 2012, my father’s home insurance company sent an inspector. As a result, the insurance company required two changes: part of the roof needed to be replaced and two trees needed to come down, one of them being the tree shown above.
“I am sorry,” sighed the tree.
I wish that I could
give you something…
But I have nothing left.
I am just an old stump.
I am sorry…”
Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree
Well, an old stump is good for a garden.
Come, plant flowers and enjoy.
A purple coneflower gives glory to God by being a purple coneflower and a petunia gives glory to God by being a petunia.
It was great to see my uncle and my cousin. While my father was so happy to see his brother, I was struck by my father’s struggle to engage in conversation.
A few months ago, at a doctor’s visit, his doctor asked him social questions about the family and his daily activities. When he didn’t answer immediately, I jumped in to help supply the answers. She looked at me and said, “I’m interested in the family and all, but this is also part of my assessment.”
She actually said it much nicer than that, but that was the gist of it. Stop answering for him. I need to get a handle on what he’s able to comprehend.
Since then, I’ve very consciously placed myself on the outskirts of his conversations.
At lunch with his brother, the conversation floundered.
Uncle Stewart: So, Don, what books are you reading these days?
Dad: Oh, I don’t know, a little of this, and — I guess I don’t read many books.
I stayed out if it. Nearly every day my father pulls new books off the shelf and starts reading them. Out loud. I put away eight books yesterday. Everything from Outlander to the Book of Occasional Services to Murder at Fenway Park to Scotland Forever Home.
My uncle also tried talking to my father about the Red Sox.
Uncle Stewart: Who’s your favorite player on the Red Sox, Don?
Dad: Favorite player? Uh…
My father couldn’t come up with any names, so I jumped in. “How about Mookie Betts?”
He smiled broadly. “Yes, I like Mookie Betts.”
I felt sad afterwards — grieving a loss that was in progress, like watching a thief steal valued possessions and not being able to do anything about it.
Maybe that led me to my action later that day. You see, I broke one of three rules I have for dealing with a person who leaves unkind comments on my blog.
My rules are simple:
Don’t engage. This includes responding in any way or acknowledging anything.
Document everything. This is based on legal advice.
Don’t change. This is also based on a discussion with my lawyer. I asked him, “Should I stop blogging?” “Absolutely not,” he said. “Don’t change your life to comply with a bully.”
I wrote a since-deleted password-protected post that bordered on engaging (Rule #1). Mostly the post bemoaned the lack of civility in our engagement with others. Still, I deleted it.
Yesterday, as I tended the flower garden, I found myself marveling at the way the more I cut the flowers back, the more blossoms they produce.
I moved to another garden where I’m in my third year of trying to eradicate Japanese Knotweed. I use a combination of Round-Up and hand-weeding. Surely, it will eventually die out. It’s so persistent, though.
As I prayed while weeding, one of Sunday’s scriptures came flooding through my mind.
“…a thorn was given me in the flesh, … to harass me … Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” … For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (from 2 Corinthians 12)
It’s all a gift. The weeds, the thorns, the pruning, the losses.
The first dahlia of summer opened last night and I’m content.