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Gardening practice for Mom


I was pleased to learn on a recent visit to Mom and Dad, they are planning on staying in their home of 60 years at least until next winter.
Mom’s planting a garden and even has her seeds purchased.
Up until a couple years ago, she’s kept the 18-by-24 foot space behind the garage in tomatoes, onions, squash, carrots, radishes... the usual stuff. She isn’t a compulsive gardener with impossibly high standards but she does keep it weeded and pruned fairly well. She also has a green thumb; the amount of produce that comes out of the small space is impressive. A couple years ago, however, a pumpkin plant took over to such a degree she couldn’t penetrate the dense foliage to beat it into submission. So she’s cut back to a much smaller strip, which she still gets a lot to grow on surprisingly.
She got her seeds from the local Dollar Store, they sell for a quarter a packet. Besides the low cost, she likes that the envelopes contain only four or five seeds.
“The other ones cost a dollar and have 20 seeds or more,” she commented. “What am I going to do with 20 zucchinis?”
It’s a toss-up as to which she dislikes more: overpaying or wasting.
Dad, for his part, said he’s helping her get in shape by dropping things on the floor.
“If she’s going to pull weeds, she needs to practice bending,” he said with a well-practiced wink.
Not that Mom has far to reach, as detailed many times in this space. “Shorty” as brother Bob calls her, was 5 foot tall in heels at her prime, but at the age of 90 she’s shrunk considerably. She still uses her cut off mop handle as a cane and, as of late, is also using the edge of Dad’s walker for support.
We went out to eat to Fratello’s, a hotdog joint near the house, which has been in business since before the 1990 American With Disabilities Act. The 6-inch-tall curb is too close to the too-narrow door, which leads to a too-narrow hallway to another too-narrow door. I’ve offered to drive to other places more accessible, but they wouldn’t hear of wasting gas. Plus, it’s our Fratello’s, the one we’ve been going to for the past 40 years. It’s also the one I frittered my college money away at. They made it in and out but there was a point they seemed so jammed up I thought the fire department might have to bring out the jaws of life to free them.
Mom still drives with the help of a thick pillow, so she can see over the steering wheel. Mostly, she drives to church, nearby grocery stores and doctor appointments. Luckily, the church, medical complex and several good grocers are all within a two-mile radius of their home. If there’s a really good bargain somewhere, they may venture farther. They like a particular brand of breakfast sausage, for example, offered by a meat wholesaler 10 miles away. Not only do they like the taste, the patties are sold at an incredible value. So they make the trip.
As usual, we played Six Card. Pinochle was the go-to game years ago, but the cards have become too hard for Dad to read with his very limited eyesight. So we play Six Card. Other people call it Golf, but brother Bob says only Republicans and pantywaists play golf, so we call it sensibly-named to Bob’s taste Six Card game. That way he’s not offended and it helps him remember how many cards to deal.
Dad was a shrewd pinochle player, able to count cards and strategize with the best. He’s no slouch at Six Card, either. It’s extra impressive. Mom has a way of being in the running as well. It might have something to do with her lucky horse, a small plastic token she got from who knows where, and the lucky ring made of a folded dollar bill that she wears. The game is also played with six nickels and a quarter. They keep their change in an old peanut butter jar, which fills up from time to time and has to be emptied.
The good news of course was Mom wanting to put in a garden, and while being a little melancholy, it was also good news to hear them talking about maybe, just maybe they might think about moving to assisted living. They’ve lived a long and fiercely independent life, but time waits for no one.
But until then, Dad is dropping nickels on the floor for gardening practice.