I have been thinking about the local farmers and their crops, this early warm weather and the buds on trees aching to burst out into flowery flames. I’m worrying about the planting schedule. Winter was so mild; did the farmers move up their timetable? Will there be fresh spring peas and asparagus in March instead of May? Or will we skip over those first vegetables of the season and head straight toward early lettuce or whatever comes next? I’m thinking about the berry farm, too. It always snows here in April, though who knows if it will this year. But if it does, if the weather pendulum swings back from spring to winter, what happens to that delicate fruit? We need strawberries for our poundcake and whipped cream, for Easter and Mother’s Day.
I’m thinking about the local farmers and the weather, fretting over all of it on this day filled with sunshine and cloud, the alternating currents of the sky. I’m thinking about all of this as my grandmother lies in a darkened room, the mercy of morphine her constant companion. It’s easier to worry about the crops that might suffer and die than to think too much about her. I want to take her out of that dark hospice room, out into the play of sunlight and cloud, the dance of blue and grey. I want her to have the breeze on her tissue skin. I want to believe that the air is soft and sweet enough not to bruise or tear at her, like every human touch seems to do. Last night I hummed to her a song I don’t know, just the two of us in that darkened room. I don’t know if she could hear me. I wanted to touch her head, smooth the white hair that’s pushed back from her brow, but I didn’t, too scared to disturb what I hope is a peaceful sleep, or at least a gentle drug trip. So I hummed, because that room was so damn dark and cold. People we love should die surrounded by beauty. Everyone should have something human and beautiful right up to the end. I keep thinking about buying a grocery store bouquet for her bedside, even if she’ll never open her eyes to see them. I want to fill that room with the early flowers: cream, yellow, white, and orange hued daffodils; purple crocus with slender white-striped green leaves; voluptuous tulips in every shade, their black stamens punctuating the heart.
A few days ago, when she was still semi-coherent, I wanted to tell her what a beautiful day it was outside, how nice it felt to have the top of your head warmed by the sun and the skin of your arms cooled by the breeze. But this seemed like cruelty, to tell her of the things she’d never again feel in her body. I never knew my grandmother well enough to know how she’d feel about these things or which flowers were her favorites. If one day I’m in that same room, please tell me about the world. Regale me with descriptions of sky, trees, sun, and wind. Bring the puffy cumulus clouds indoors for me, let nature force its green shoots up through the brown haze.
Jennifer (Jenna) McGuiggan co-authored Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History (Clarkson Potter, 2019). Her work has appeared in The Orison Anthology, The Rappahannock Review, Flycatcher, New World Writing, online for Prairie Schooner and Brevity, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and was a finalist in contests from Prime Number Magazine, Hunger Mountain, and The Orison Anthology. She received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Visit her at www.thewordcellar.com.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Tracey Rabjohns