The Tale of Us Against the Monster: Gardening and Internal Sketchbooks


My husband and I were told 20 months and 3 days ago that the Monster would kill him within a year.  We did all the right things…got our house in order, filled out paper work, filed files, contacted many official offices starting with 1-800- and ending in, where we often spent hours—precious hours mind you—on hold waiting for the next civil servant to nearly answer nearly all the questions we had and to be almost forthcoming about which highly paid, bilingual civil servant we needed to contact next.  Oh the web of government bureaucracy involved when a Canadian soul departs this Canadian mortal coil!!  What a series of sticky-webbed doorways to navigate, with faceless android millennials on telephones and screens, answering only what you know to ask, but not volunteering information on what you do not know to ask.  It’s like they are paid according to a standardized word count quota per day, but cap out at a specific number.  And everything costs money!  The Canadian government bills you when you die. I guess the civil servants in these departments must get paid somehow.  Do I sound bitter?  Am I ranting??


All that being said, we are still “Us” for now.  And summertime!! We have plans for our summertime while we take advantage of the Monster-In-Chains, and dare to slip tentatively into something of a new normalcy.  My husband worked in the garden today, plucked at weeds while the dog lay beside him and chewed a water bottle to bits.  I watched him through a window as he worked, slow and steady, and etched the scene deeply into my mind’s sketchbook…for later, when I need to refer back.  The sheer blissful banality of my husband in the garden on a Saturday afternoon, sipping a cool drink, and listening to old 70s music on a ghetto blaster. Yes…a ghetto blaster.  Or later, fixing the wheels on the lawn mower. Or chatting over the fence with the next door neighbor.  I file these things away.  I suppose it’s surprising what we think is important. Today was a series of snapshots that, five years ago, I might have shrugged at or ignored completely.  Now everything is important.


But the garden’s in!!  A bit late, but in all the same.  We have blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Red grapes and white grapes. We have two types of tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, four types of herbs, lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, carrots, and peas.  Plus an apple and a cherry tree.  And very soon, potatoes.  We also have plenty of flowers, and pretty things to look at.  We love our garden—it’s always a work in progress, and it is a place of satisfaction and contentment for us both.  But it’s work.  And needs constant attention.  My son thinks we need to scale things back a bit to something that takes less work.  In the Fall, after the garden is done for the year, he is going to tear down and rebuild our raised garden beds into something smaller, taller, and easier to access.  Everything is changing, and I feel a deep sigh coming. 


I’m off to Victoria shortly as my friend buries her brother…my friend’s sister in law buries her husband…another victim of the Monster.  I’m afraid to see this woman, to see the “widowness” creeping over her like a grey shroud.  To see her bewildered eyes.  To see her new, raw sorrow.  And then to know…just know the terrible truth of it.  To feel moments slipping through my fingers like sand.  The dread of it—but I shall go just the same, if only as a silent witness, a supporter as this woman shakes her fists at the Monster and curses him. 


But for today, my husband is in his feisty self.  Right now, he is laying on the couch, watching a docudrama about people in Alaska who live off the grid.  The dog is laying beside him, on her back with her paws in the air, snoring.  Every so often, he wiggles her paw, and she stops, licks her nose, and falls back into her dreams.  He is surfing the web on his tablet looking at motor boats, because he loves them.  He is daydreaming about a boat that would be small enough to not cost a lot in moorage, yet with enough size to travel between the Gulf Islands.  I love that he has dreams…the Monster has no control over those.


He’s going to bed shortly.  I’ll remind him to take his medicine, and he’ll remind me that he’s not a baby.  I’ll tuck him in.  He likes that I do that for him.  Then I will let the dog out for a midnight pee, put the tea cups in the dishwasher, wash the counter tops, and turn off the lights except the stove light.  I’ll do my usual walk through, let the dog in, lock the doors, and go brush my teeth.  The dog will curl herself at the end of the bed after she completes her nightly grooming regimen.  I’ll wash my face, brush my hair, and watch my husband already half asleep against his pillows. He’ll murmur, “Did you lock the door?” I’ll kiss his forehead and say, “I’ve taken care of everything.”  He’ll breathe deeply then, and wander off to sleep. 


Peace. Quiet. Gratitude. 20 months and 4 days.


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