Red Geraniums

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet the Queen of Pentacles? I've met her. It was quite the experience. I learned a lot.

About twelve years ago, I worked as a Home Health Aide. It was an interesting job. However, I found that providing care to someone directly in their home was a lot different than providing care to someone in a facility.

There are good and bad sides of both. For example, in a home environment, you have a tendency to become entrenched in the person’s personal life. You meet their children, siblings, neighbors, get the idea.

Again, this can be good or bad. In my experience, what it fostered, on the whole, was either an extremely close relationship between care provider and receiver. Or, the reaction would be just as extreme in the reverse.

Most of the time, when someone is receiving home care, they need only minimal assistance with activities of daily living. You are a true assistant; you are not giving total care. Socialization is key here. And, that becomes part of your job. For me, it was my favorite part. I liked getting to know people on their turf. I enjoyed meeting their extended family and sometimes being welcomed into that fold even if it was only for a short period of time.

I worked for a lady whom I’ll call Abigail. She was divorced and a mother of 4 children at a time when people didn’t just get divorced. Marriage was more of a necessity then. But, that’s a rant for a different day.

I listened to Abigail's stories about being the only single mother in a small town. A lot of it sounded like excerpts from The Scarlet Letter. Some of the judgment, snide comments and down right vile reactions her lifestyle generated were amazing. Yet, she endured. And, she was able to laugh about it later.

Needless to say, Abigail was a very strong lady. She was also a very particular and stubborn lady. When it came to helping her clean house or do laundry, I learned very quickly that I knew nothing. I learned this because she often told me.

She re-taught me how to iron clothes after she nearly busted a gut laughing at my initial attempts. “Didn’t anybody ever teach you how to do that?” She’d say. And, I’d tell her, “Probably. But, I don’t pay attention much.” Then, she’d start dictating instructions.

She was never mean about it. I think she actually liked it. I’m sure she thought, “Poor little girl. If she would have had those two kids of hers in my time, she never would have made it.” And, she was probably right. It amazes me that she came through it and a major war basically unscathed and toting a healthy family of five to boot!

Not only was it amazing to me that this lady didn’t have a nervous breakdown given her life circumstances, but, she also was very active socially and within the community. Due her children, she was active in the school system. She was a member of the city’s gardening club, bridge club, book club and had an extensive list of personal friends. At about 80 years old, she was still involved with all of these. By the way, if you have never seen a group of ladies this age play bridge, you are seriously missing out.

The first Mother’s Day I spent with Abigail, she met me at her door in her wheelchair with a small spade shovel and a pair of gardening gloves. It was 7 AM.

Now, I love playing in the dirt. But, I don’t love doing anything until about 9 or 10 AM. So, the grimace on my face that said, “I’m not even done with my coffee or making your breakfast yet” cued her to give me more details.

“The boys will be bringing my geraniums today. Red ones and white ones. I’m not going to be able to plant them in the pots this year. So, when they come, I’m going to act all excited and tell you to plant them right away.

“Last year, I let them sit on the porch in their original containers. They died. The boys thought they had done something wrong. I couldn’t tell them I couldn’t physically plant them anymore.”

Apparently the boys had been buying geraniums for her on Mother’s Day since they moved into this town. There was a place that sold them really cheap around Mother’s Day.

The boys had saved up money from the Tooth Fairy and odd jobs they had done in the neighborhood in order to buy them for her their first year here. She said they were so proud of themselves that she didn’t have the heart to tell them that she wasn’t particularly fond of geraniums. “But,’ she said, “that was ok because now they are my favorite annual.”

The boys came and after I planted the flowers for her, snickering as she played out the request exactly as she said she would, the boys walked around like peacocks once again priding themselves in their perfect gift for Mother’s Day. Unbeknownst to them, it had nothing to do with the flowers.

That summer, I learned that when you dead-head geraniums, you do so at the joint on the stem. The joint looks a bit like a little round ball that joins the flower stalk to the main stem. I learned you DO NOT get water on the leaves because if you do they turn brown. And, I learned that people can survive and flourish in just about any circumstance as long as they think they can and they have a little love.