Autumn can be a desolate season. For Dorothy, after losing her husband, the autumn of her life stretches before her lonely and uncertain. But a change, a new hobby, and new friends prove this new season to be bountiful with blessings.
Copyright © 2013 Dvora Waysman
I worked in my garden today. It was cold…a typical autumn day that was somehow appropriate to my melancholy mood. It is still hard for me to think of it as “my” garden. This was always Steve’s province, and my only involvement was to pick some flowers, or some vegetables from the back garden. Even this Steve usually did. I can still see him coming into the kitchen beaming with pride. He’d carry a basketful of golden corn cobs, fat cucumbers, or scarlet, juicy tomatoes. Sometimes the zucchini would weigh him down, and I’d groan because I thought them an insipid vegetable that seemed to defy all my efforts to make them tasty. But no matter how I’d complain, he’d plant them again next season, and that one vegetable always thrived.
It’s been eight months since he died. Until a few weeks ago, I ignored the garden completely. Every time they came to visit, Vanessa and Peter urged me to hire a gardener, and I did finally find someone to mow the lawn. Yet, somehow the garden symbolized Steve for me, and I couldn’t bear to look out the window and see another man stomping around in it. Still, I couldn’t go on ignoring the weed-choked plants, or the branches that needed cutting back if you didn’t want to risk being decapitated as you walked along the path. And now I have started to enjoy it. There’s something satisfying about putting your hands into the soil—it’s really quite therapeutic.
I picked some of the chrysanthemums and arranged them in a vase on the piano next to Steve’s photo. They are a rich russet color, and he seems to be smiling at them. Such silly little things we cling to for comfort. It is so hard to let him go!
The kids tell me I should socialize more, and suggested I take up bridge. But cards never really appealed to me. Of course, I babysit my five grandchildren when I’m needed, but it’s true I should have more adult company. We had a few good friends, but since I’ve been widowed I notice the wives seldom invite me over, or only occasionally for morning coffee when their husbands are at work. Maybe they see a single woman as a threat, which in my case is ridiculous. I’m sixty and never was a femme fatale even when I was young. But this is a couple-oriented society. Unattached men never lack for invitations, but the same isn’t true for a woman.
My neighbor, Jenny Wallis—also a widow—has become a good friend. She’s a keen gardener and suggested I join her gardening club. It’s run by a man in the next suburb, Ronald someone, and it meets every Thursday morning at his home. She tells me he is very knowledgeable, and his own garden is quite magical, even though he is divorced and lives alone.
I rather like the idea of taking up gardening seriously. Steve was very enthusiastic once he retired, but relied on his instincts more than anything else. When seedlings were available in the plant nursery, he would buy them, or pick up packets of seeds at the supermarket. He got excited when they flourished, but it was more good luck than good management, as the saying goes. Jenny is far more scientific now that she’s been attending the gardening club, and very ambitious in creating a rock garden and a special herb garden. She’s even talking about putting in a small pool with water lilies, as she’s never forgotten visiting Monet’s garden at Giverney when she went to Paris many years ago.
The other attraction for joining is that it’s a good way to meet new people. I admit, I’m very lonely now, and I don’t resent not seeing our old friends so much, as it hurts to see them still in couples while I must go on alone. I did think of returning to teaching part-time, even volunteering, but there’s a lot of truth in the saying: “You can’t go home again.” Much as you try to recapture the past, it’s over, and you have to move on to new pastures.
In theory, I know this is true. The therapist I saw for grief counseling after Steve died emphasized this. I can’t bury myself, even though I wanted to back then. But I am reasonably healthy and could live another twenty years—my mother was 88 when she died. In some ways, I’m lucky. I don’t have a lot of money, but the house is mine, and I can afford small luxuries if I want them.
For the last six months, I didn’t care how I looked, but somehow the female in me is starting to reassert itself. I’m going to the beauty salon again to have my hair done, and last week I surprised myself by putting on cosmetics for no particular reason. I guess I was just tired of that drab, sad image in the mirror. I felt angry a few months ago when well-meaning people would trot out platitudes about time healing pain. The truth is the pain is still there, but it’s not so sharp. It’s more a dull ache of deprivation and loss. Yet, there’s also now an element of hope for the future. I’ve decided I will go to the gardening club on Thursday.