The past two weeks have been rough for my family after my mother’s boyfriend died. There’s never a good time to lose someone important, and “suddenly” is one of the worst times.
Mom did not usually bring her beau when she visited Chico, so I only met John a few dozen times. He was always kind and often witty. When they first started dating my mother was like a teenage girl; it was hard to have a conversation without hearing about some cute thing John had said or done.
This was so adorable for a woman in her 60s that I would egg her on when we talked on the phone … “Tell me Mom, what cute thing did John say or do today?”
Death is never timely. However, what makes this even more heart-breaking is that Mom recently retired. She and John had places to go and things to see. They had planned to do these things together.
The day after we heard the news, my niece sent me a note on Facebook. “Happy one-year anniversary of being cancer-free,” she wrote.
I had not intended to celebrate the anniversary of my uterine cancer surgery. Yet, being alive at this moment is something for which I should give more than just a passing nod. I also recognized that my niece was reaching out the way that death sometimes compels us to do.
When we don’t know what else to do or say, we can reach for the hands of the ones who are still living.
My mother has been incredibly brave. She cries a lot but she also says she is grateful to have had John in her life for many years.
The garden lends itself to analogies, many of them applicable to lessons we learn in life and love. Beauty in the yard can be fleeting. Plants need to be nurtured. Sometimes what we work so hard to protect is snatched away when we aren’t looking.
For years now I have planted poppy seeds in the cracks in the alley.
I’m also known to carry a plastic bag of poppy seeds when I take a walk in the neighborhood or at a neighborhood park.
Scattering poppies is easy in the fall. The seeds sprout and receive winter rains.
I’ve also learned the hard way that seeds placed in unpredictable locations can fall victim to folks with good intentions.
When the city first built the roundabouts on Eighth Avenue, I took it upon myself to plant poppies in the fresh, bare earth.
City workers took it upon themselves to clear this area of all vegetation. I can’t blame them. They didn’t know the difference between a weed and a wildflower.
As for my alley, several times this winter I spent time picking vetch from the cracks in the concrete, carefully allowing the poppy plants to remain. Common groundsel also bullies its way between the lacy leaves of our state flower.
Right about now it’s poppy showtime. The field at Sierra Nevada Brewery off 20th Street is currently spotted with golden blossoms. You’ll also note poppies at the end of freeway offramps. I may have even planted those flowers by tossing seeds out of the car window.
Yet, something happened to the poppies growing in the cracks of the alley. My beloved neighbor asked his son to help knock down some weeds in a chemical way.
I was glad, because the son caught the weeds just in time, before they had a chance to set seed.
I wish the son had continued toward the other end of the alley and zapped the privet growing over the side of another neighbor’s fence.
It takes several days for glyphosate to do its job. The weeds start to fade before they turn yellow.
I thought the poppies in the alley looked a bit dim. But maybe they were fading as the weather warmed.
Yet, my Handsome Woodsman said he was fairly certain the son had continued spraying down the alley.
The son was just doing his best and didn’t recognize that something beautiful was about to happen.
What’s a bummer is that the poppies were just about the bloom. They would have been fabulous just about now. Now they are gone.
Contact reporter Heather Hacking at 896-7758.