THE GARDENER’S RESPITE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Respite

My right shoulder hurts. A lot.

At least half of that is an old injury from my riding days … and the rest is probably hauling heavy pots — with and without food — in the kitchen. Trying to find a position in which I can sleep with that shoulder wrapped in a heating pad is interesting. Because it’s my right shoulder and these days, I have to sleep on my back because that’s what my back wants, I can’t find anyplace to put the electric cord that is not underneath my head.

It is a lumpy cord and includes the piece for changing the settings, which is very lumpy. It makes sleeping a dicey affair.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Meanwhile, in theory, my son is coming over tomorrow to change the sink faucet — assuming his back isn’t out. I also asked him to come by (if it ever stops raining) with his big electric hedge clippers and cut down the rose bushes and rhododendrons.

Columbine

There’s no way I can maintain them anymore. The flowers will get the entire garden. While the bushes will eventually grow back — probably sooner rather than later — at least I don’t have to stare at all those dead rhododendrons.

I will get a respite from our barbed wire roses and dying rhododendrons.

Bright lilies

I find a garden full of dead bushes a bit depressing. I don’t even know WHY they died, although they sent up a bunch of new, young shoots too … so maybe this is just their way of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new? Is that how these bushes usually work?

Daylilies with red roses in the back

As for the roses, these cruel, barbed-wire bushes have been (ahem) a thorn in my arms, hands, arms, and clothing for about 17 years. I should never have planted them and they have totally taken over. They not only get tall, but they send out runners,

House in summer

Merciless and cruel, I can see how they were used to protect property. No one would try to dash through those bushes. I don’t think they could unless they were carrying a flame thrower and frankly, I’m not sure the bushes would care. They are very durable. They should be properly removed by an actual gardener, but I’d have to pay someone to do it and I can’t.

At least cutting them down will give me a season’s respite from their claws. I’m sorry about the rhododendrons, though.

We didn’t plant it sensibly. Didn’t leave pathways … or rather, we did, but they got eaten by the daylilies and roses. I never imagined a time when I wouldn’t be able to just hike up there and deal with the plants. Getting old is not only not fun, but it’s also a surprise.

You can count the years all you want, but you don’t really expect them to add up to “old.” No one plans to be old, even when we are planning for retirement. We think we will stay exactly as we are with maybe a few gray hairs.

I feel bad about it. It seems like murder. I’ve always encouraged plants to grow and cutting them down feels like a betrayal. I am comforted by knowing there will still be a few roses in the back and the daylilies will go into furious growth when they don’t have to battle with the thorn bushes.

You never imagine, when you plant a garden, that one day you won’t be able to care for it. It never crosses your mind. I was planning for an energetic old age that differed in no special way from being younger.

Oops.

THE JOY IN JERUSALEM – Marilyn Armstrong

The odds favor that, if you live a full life, you will witness events that are historically important. Depending on your definition of “witness,” you’ll inevitably witness a lot of history. You can’t avoid it.

Some events are more dramatic and make better stories. Even if your witness was via television or the news, you are no less a witness. Certainly, we are all witnessing history now … and wondering if maybe we are witnessing the end of the world we knew and thought would last forever.

My favorite “witness” experience was being in Israel when the Camp David Accords were signed. I had only arrived there a few weeks before. I was still trying to figure out what this place was. It definitely wasn’t the romanticized venue in the novels I’d read … or even the idealized “homeland” my mother imagined.

It was far more complicated, textured, and nuanced … which should not have been a surprise, yet was.

I bought a car shortly after I arrived. A Ford Escort. Ford had a little factory in Israel and Escorts were “Everyman’s” car. Small, and by American standards, underpowered, they were a “best buy” on Israel’s new car market.

The Ford dealership was across from the King David Hotel, which was where Begin, Sadat, and Carter met and made deals. As fate would have it, it was also the day on which I was supposed to pick up my new car. When I got to the street, bigger events were taking place.

My car would wait.

The King David Hotel

There were armed men everywhere. On the streets, the rooftops. Everywhere you looked, and probably thousands of places you couldn’t see, armed men stood guard. No one was getting assassinated on Israel’s watch. At least, not that day.

Around midday, to the enthusiastic cheering of the crowd, the official limousines swung past, each sporting the flags of its nation It was a sight to see.

King David Hotel entrance

All over Israel, there was great celebration and joy. It was one of the happiest, most optimistic moments in Israel’s short modern history. Finally, there was real hope there might be real peace. Hope that somehow, out of the bloodshed and wars, this was a significant step forward.

Not long thereafter, back in Egypt, Sadat would be assassinated. Ten days later, Moshe Dayan who had crafted the accords, would die too. He had been sick with both cancer and heart disease for a long time, but I believe he died of disappointment.

After that, optimism faded. The joy was dampened and life was “business as usual.”

I was there for that brief, bright moment, witness to the great moment when joy exploded in the streets of Jerusalem. No matter what anyone says nowadays about Israel’s intentions in the region, if you were there that day, you could not fail to know that the foundation of everyone’s hopes, was peace.

ROMANTIC ME – Marilyn Armstrong

LOVE AND MARRIAGE ARE NOTHING LIKE A HORSE AND CARRIAGE


I was 18 when I married for the first time. I was in my senior year of college, working at the radio station and beginning to get the hang of writing for people other than myself.  Jeff ran the college radio station. He was the Station Manager.

Garry, my once and future husband, was Jeff’s second-in-command — the Program Director. The two were coincidentally also best friends. Along with most of the people I count as friends all these long years later, we were having a great time doing weird and creative stuff … a permanent party, or so it seemed.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 2000

It wasn’t just the usual college hi-jinx. Aside from the stuff we did at the station, we were creative party givers. Our Fall of Sauron Day parties became the stuff of legend –scripted, costumed, with special effects. We were young and healthy and could party all night, yet still rise up and go the work the following morning — looking barely the worse for wear. Ah, youth.

I married Jeff in August 1965. I spent the next year finishing my B.A. and having my spine remodeled, so it was a few years before I got on with life. My son was born in May 1969. We named him Owen Garry, Garry being his godfather. Fast forward through a non-acrimonious divorce. I later realized if you just give up everything and walk away, it’s easy to be amicable. It’s also something you will probably regret — eventually.

Off to Israel, I went with The Kid. Not too long thereafter, I married in Israel. The less said about this mistake, the better. In 1983, a state visit from the ex and (now) current husband (they rode together), showing up right in time for war in Lebanon. It ruined our plans to visit Mt. Hermon and the Galilee but created great anecdotes which Garry and I tell after dinner around the fire.

I have one (fuzzy) picture of me, sandwiched between Jeff and Garry, all arm-in-arm, the Dead Sea behind us. The picture was taken by husband number 2 (the one I don’t want to talk about).

Photo: Debbie Stone
Photo: Debbie Stone

August 1987.

I’m back! Garry and I are an item. Having been apart for so long brought us closer together than we’d imagined possible. The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw one another with new eyes. I think we’d always been a little in love, but there was an endless number of reasons why it wasn’t the right time to do something about it.  Now, shortly after my Israeli divorce from husband number 2 was finished, Garry and I got married.

And here’s how it really happened.

I’d been away for two weeks in California on business. I had come back early because I got sick and came down with the flu. Just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series — occurred the following day and if I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under the collapsed highway.

Garry was glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad. If you want to know the definition of “mixed emotions,” it’s a man overwhelmed with joy to see the woman he loves — but knowing the first kiss will include influenza. The definition of true love? He kissed me anyway.

And got the flu.

So after we both stopped coughing, Garry took me out to dinner. He was nervous. He was driving and we went around Leverett Circle at least half a dozen times. He kept missing the turn-off. Meanwhile, he was explaining how he’d had a conversation with his pal about real estate, and how prices were down, and how maybe we should buy something. And live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

So having listened for a pretty long time, I said: “So let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said and drove around the loop one more time.

“I don’t know about you,” I said, “But I definitely need a drink.”

Garry, now

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said, “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. Wouldn’t you think that was a proposal? I had to remind him about buying a ring, too but eventually, he got into the groove, realized all he had to do was tell me what he wanted and show up in a tux and he’d be a married guy. Piece of cake.

We got married 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.

I declined to have my first ex-husband as best man at my third wedding. We did, however, have the “real” reception at his house. There was the official one at the church, but the fun event, with all the friends, music, wine and sharing … that one was over at the old house where I used to live with Jeff.

Garry and I will celebrate our 29th anniversary in September. When you find the right one, time flies.

FROM THE SIDE – THE BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: View From the Side