The garden that grief and anger built

Grief stole the garden that grief and anger built. 

I want it back.

As Doug was dying, he sat in the daybed by the bay window and watched me build the garden. He was so sick, and I had taken off work to be his caretaker. Sick though he was, I had many hours left to myself. 

I sat in my family room and looked at my bare backyard.  I had always planned a grand garden back there.  Over the years I had made periodic attempts at it but my midlife career as a full-time employee and full time college student didn’t let much happen. 

Now, I had time.  And, miraculously, I had money.

I began the garden.  I built a circular retaining wall to house daffodils, peonies, vinca and ivy.  I bought a water fountain — a very modern design — so unusual for me.  I planted dozens and dozens of white petunias and white double impatiens — I wanted the garden to glow in the moonlight.  I tended to the wisteria and brought it back from the brink. 

The white roses were pruned and fed.  The furniture painted.  New cushions procured.

As Doug lay dying, I poured my grief and anger into building the garden.

It was nearly complete, as complete as gardens get, when he was hospitalized for that last time.  Three weeks or so at the hospital.  The grass and weeds grew.

The night after he died, his daughter and I sat in the overgrown garden drinking wine and telling stories about him.  Tears flowed freely. 

The fireflies darted about the weeds and brush.  Music played softly.  The windchimes provided needed baritone to the cascading of the fountain.

It was such a lovely evening for such a cruel event.

As I took care of Doug’s estate and caught up with work, the garden was abandoned.  So much to do – the garden didn’t seem like a necessity.

Soon it was an overgrown mess.  I couldn’t catch my breath Couldn’t summon the energy to reclaim a garden on the edge of a forest from going wild.

I vowed to tend it as I realized what a necessity it was.

My dad died suddenly.  The day of his funeral, I cleared an area near the fountain and planted 13 Madonna lilies — a flower of significance to him. 

As I actively grieved him, I reclaimed the garden.  Dozens of petunias, impatiens and a white Mandevilla.  The Japanese climbing hydrangea bloomed for the first time.  I found solace in the garden.

And then my best friend died. 

And along with her, the garden. 

I lost my will to bring life out of death.

It is still neglected though it provides the sudden bloom now and again — mock orange, Peruvian daffodils, lily of the valley.

During the pandemic, I vowed to reclaim it.  But then I broke my foot.  And then I contracted COVID.

Oh, how I long to get back to the garden.  I dedicate it now to me.  I need its life force to revive mine.  It is now a necessity again.

Little Bright Blue Boat

Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on

Safe in the little boat painted bright blue, I dip the paddle into the water now and again but am letting the water just carry me.  I wave to folks on the shore. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me.   I don’t have much strength, yet. 


The river’s current is gentle.  I don’t know where the current is taking me.  I have been content to just drift down the river waving to folks as I head out alone. 

I am not well-provisioned.  This is an adventure – the river will provide or perhaps it won’t. I am not so much curious about what lies ahead as I am resigned.  There is no map, and I couldn’t read it if there were.  For a map to be useful one must know where they are and where they are going.  I don’t know either.  I did not plan this trip.  I did not choose the little bright blue boat.

The water called to me and there it was on the beach.

The little bright blue boat drifts toward the center of the river where the current is stronger.  Picking up speed, I now use the oars to steer the boat.  The surface of the water ripples with a wind gust and low clouds begin to move in. 

The little bright blue boat and I are on our way.

A Berry, Berry Sweet Dog

babette and the toddlers

Babette and the Toddlers

The Berry Berry Sweet Dog is my new-to-me Shih Tzu although I object to the wording of that as he is not my possession, but my roommate.

I hadn’t expected to get another dog so soon, but life had other ideas.

The Beautiful Babette was mostly Shih Tzu.  I’ve forgotten the details of her story, but I have always regarded her as a rescue.  She arrived at my house after spending a short time at a friend’s.  At the time, I had two other dogs, affectionately dubbed “The Toddlers,” that sucked up all the attention in the room.  Babette was in the background, thankful for any attention she got, and as sweet as a dog could possibly be.

When I got Babette , the vet estimated her age between six and eight.  By the time Chef Boy ‘R Mine took The Toddlers to live with him, Babette was an aging beauty who got sweeter with every passing day.

My mother ran Doggie Daycare as she hated the idea of Babette rattling around the barn alone.  When Doug came to live with me, Babette left Doggie Daycare to be with him with the occasional forays to Grandma’s house – particularly on the days she snuck under the fence.

snoozy babette

Snoozy Babette

Babette began going downhill quickly before Doug’s death.  She reached the point where her back legs didn’t work so well, her vision was poor and her hearing was beginning to go.  I think she knew I needed her and hung on.  Frequently while Doug was in the hospital, I would run home to see if she was still breathing.  She hung on another three and half months after Doug’s death.

I had vowed that I would not allow her to feel any pain and would take her to the vet for the last great journey of life.  I promised her.  And I kept that promise.  On October 3rd, Babette went to sleep for the last time.

My mother and I buried her in the garden near the spot in the fence that she used to do her Houdini act.  It was sad and I mourned her.  Simultaneously, I both missed having a dog and loved not having a dog to take care of, particularly an elderly dog who couldn’t really walk any longer.

Berry Berry Sweet Dog

Berry Berry Sweet Dog

In the goofiness that is my life, the picture of a dog appeared on my Facebook exactly two weeks after Babette’s death.  I was stunned.  The dog could have been Babette.  The caption stated he was 6 or 7 and had been owner surrendered to the local kill shelter.

Of course I went down there and, of course, I was horrified.  And, of course, I didn’t leave him there.  He’d been surrendered the same day Babette died.

I found him with a bad case of kennel cough, an upper respiratory infection, and two infected ears.  He also has cataracts and is probably deaf.  He’s also 11, not 6 or 7.  The vet bills to get him well are mounting and he still won’t eat.  He’s lost more than a pound since I’ve had him and he doesn’t weight a whole lot of pounds.  Right now, he’s topping off at a whopping six pounds.  I’m worried about him.

Snoozy Berry

Snoozy Berry

He might be grieving himself.  His owner took him there as her arthritis had become debilitating and she couldn’t take care of him.  I’m sure she tried to find someone to take him, but who wants a nearly blind, maybe deaf dog that’s 11?  Me, that’s who.

He’s exquisitely well-trained although the vet tells me I haven’t seen his real personality yet as he’s too sick to be himself.

I wish he would eat

I wish he would eat.

The vet’s assistant told me her mother had sponsored him.  She had been dropping off supplies to the shelter, noticed him and how sick he was, and she couldn’t stand it.  She had to go out of town, but she sponsored him so he wouldn’t be killed before she could get back in town or be adopted by someone else.

Are you hearing Twilight Zone music yet?

I could have named him Rod Sterling.  They were calling him Buddy at the shelter and he is so not a Buddy.  He’s much too dignified and polite to bear a moniker Larry the Cable Guy would name his dog.  So, what did I name him?  Berry.

I named him Berry because one night I was cooing and talking baby talk to him and said, “You are a berry, berry sweet dog.”  He gave me a kiss.  My first and only Berry kiss thus far.

He’s a keeper, but I wish he would eat.  I’m tired of fretting about him.