The gardening team of Rozen and Rozen is temporarily short-handed. My husband, Lee, has fractured his foot, and he expects to be on the injured reserve list for six to eight weeks.
He’s on doctor’s orders to do as little walking as possible, which means that only I and my chief garden slacker, Benjamin BadKitten, will be down in the dirt for a while.
Lee and I have talked about the adjustments we’ll have to make for keeping up the lawn and gardens this summer. Each of us is 70 years old, and we’re so thankful for our good health. But we also realize that these next few months may be a rehearsal for the next act in our lives.
Every spring, Lee does all our pruning and the heavy digging for our raised vegetable beds.
He regularly wrangles a big honker of a corkscrew to stir up the big wire bins that hold our homemade compost, and he hauls bulky bags of soil for my adventures in impetuous gardening.
I do a bit of digging of my own and am still limber enough to bob up and down in tight spaces among my flower beds. I can easily kneel in the dirt, but rising again means steadying myself by gripping the rim of my weed bucket for leverage.
I’ll do as much of the care and watering of our flower and vegetable beds as I can — and if the pumpkin patch peters out, at least I’ll have an excuse this year.
Lee and I know we’re among many couples who are dealing with time’s changes. When one partner goes down, the other one hitches up her or his jeans and revs up the lawn mower.
But if one partner’s health or circumstances change for the long term, the decisions must go wider and deeper. For this summer, we have only small issues to figure out. Which garden areas will need regular maintenance? Which can involve some compromise? Which projects can be bagged completely or hired out?
Our biggest change was buying a battery-powered lawnmower, instead of keeping our gasoline-eating machine. I’m not a large person, and the gas mower is too much for me.
This is an embarrassing admission. Several of the women in our neighborhood know how to pull on their mowers’ start-cord without flooding the engine, and then they zip around their yards without white-knuckling the mower’s steering bar.
My only comfort is that each woman is several decades younger than me, and she might not have an arthritic wrist.
Our kind-hearted son-in-law offered to be our lawn guy, but he has a demanding job and a big lawn of his own. Also, he and our daughter, and our four young grandchildren, look forward to family time on weekends.
So I’ll be proud to keep up the lawn until Lee is back on the grass. I’ll probably mow one section a day, for an hour or so, over three days. Last summer, I dealt with three serious bouts of heat stroke, which scared me enough to limit my time in the sun.
Our lawn is not a neighborhood showpiece. We try to discourage the dandelions, without using carcinogens. We also encourage our young granddaughter to pick as many bouquets of the little yellow beasts as she wants, before they go to seed.
Our lawn also has uneven spots and some bare patches, but if we keep the grass mowed, it looks fine from a distance. I’m OK with this mediocre standard because I’d rather spend more time and energy in my beloved Church of Dirt and Flowers, or nagging the vegetable plants, with which I have a love-hate relationship.
Benjamin BadKitten has mastered both time and energy management. If self-care is the key to long life, he will remain forever young. Instead of being my faithful garden companion, BBK is focusing on his own stress control this summer. His self-prescribed therapy involves lying flat (not counting his rounded midsection) on a soft surface, indoors, with his green eyes closed and his breathing calm and regulated. One might even call it snoring.
This summer, Sydney Craft Rozen knows she will have to tamp down her optimistic daydreams about perfect gardens and supreme vegetable harvests. Moderate mowing, watering, weeding and feeding will be more than enough. Email her at email@example.com.