front of the card
This morning during advisory, one of my students handed me a Vesak card which was designed by her father. This auspicious day, the first full moon in May (as celebrated in Vietnam and Southeast Asia) commemorates Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment (see photo below).
In the midst of the 9,746,493 things I need to accomplish before the end of school year, and in light of the innumerable loose ends surrounding my step-father’s death and my mother’s move to a nursing home, the sight of the ant on the inside of the card gave me pause to breathe and remember to take one step at a time, focusing on the quality of each step.
I am also reminded that kindness and compassion need to be the key energies fueling this process.
back of the card
inside the card
Preoccupied and out of town for most of the last two weeks, I was amazed to see how full the garden had become. After school today I met JB at the garden store and we bought lots of plants for the garden, varieties of heirloom tomatoes and peppers and basil, eggplants and four kinds of lavender. It was like I was driven to plant, to get things in the ground, to make things grow. I planted five tomato plants before dinner. I dug the holes deep to make a solid foundation for the plants. Lots of room to root. I put generous amounts of compost in the planting holes and around the bases of the tomatoes. I stepped around each plant to pack the earth. I put the tomato towers over them. Tomorrow night after school, I’ll plant another bunch of vegetables.
The process is soothing. Healing. Something about nurturing life forces over which, of course, we ultimately have no control.
Like fine gourmet chefs, my mother, sister, and I distilled my mother’s material possessions into a rich and bold reduction. Selecting a specific chair, table, television, photos, a painting, a lamp, some clothes, and plants from her house, we moved my mother’s spare essentials into her new and last home this morning. (In actual fact, she will be moving to a slightly larger room in the facility in two or three weeks.)
As in all good recipes, reductions concentrate and focus the essence of things.
My mother, the key ingredient, moves into the space tomorrow morning.
She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.
“I Ask My Mother to Sing” by Li-Young Lee, from Rose. © BOA Editions, 1993.
We found a nursing home for my mother that seems pretty wonderful. It is just minutes from my sister and it seems high-spirited, positive, organized, mindful, and caring. It is privately owned and run by a single family. The residents seem comfortable and friendly. Their rooms are called apartments.
My brother, sister, and I visited last week and then brought my mother last Monday to visit. We worked very hard to make it seem like this move was a choice she could make. We shared a lunch together in the dining room with the other residents and the attractive son of the owner, with whom Mom flirted. The food was quite good. There is a garden behind the home where vegetables are grown and served and prepared in the kitchen for the residents. My mother had the owners of the facility in stitches— her bright, witty, sarcastic, playful personality shining through her very compromised body as we toured the facilities, met staff, and asked questions.
Today my sister and mother went to the “closing,” like the closing on a new house or condo, the finalizing of the paperwork for her adventure in this new home, while I was at work in Chicago 250 miles away. My sister brought a bottle of wine to celebrate this passage. I drove back to Ohio after school today and got all the details of the closing ceremony plus some of the Chinese food they had for dinner.
This closing, of course, signifies another closing. Hopefully the next one will not come for a long time, or for at least as long as my mother is comfortable, and will be prefaced with a lot of new relationships and life in between.