As my foot hit the bottom step of the staircase I noticed the door to the back patio out of the corner of my eye. Through the divided window in the top half of the door I could just make out what I thought was a dogwood tree. Intrigued I decided to enjoy the garden instead of hiding in my room.
On the veranda clusters of chairs and small tables were arranged in conversation areas for groups of two to four. An acacia wood table and chairs, stained a dark chestnut, provided seating for six, giving guests a place to dine outside, or play games in the shade of the umbrella. Stone pavers led the way into the garden, my true destination.
As I walked I felt as if I’d been transported into a fairytale garden, the trees and plants so perfectly maintained it seemed part of a picture book. I could almost imagine fairies building their homes in the hollow of a tree or in the shade of a large rock.
The green grass glowed in the sunshine, filling the space between flower beds. Pink milkweed, red trumpet creepers, and sunny black-eyed Susans washed the beds with color as if an artist had waved his brush over the lush greenery. Raspberry-red hibiscus bloomed near a decorative pond which provided a home for several Koi. A small wooden bridge spanned one end allowing visitors to view the fish from above the water.
To the right of the pond stood the dogwood tree I had spotted from inside, its blooms gone in the heat of summer. Following the path behind the dogwood I discovered a gazebo that was about six feet in diameter with benches built along the perimeter. Climbing the three steps to the shady retreat I tripped on the top stair as my attention was caught by the magnolia tree growing to my left.
Brushing the dirt from my knee, I sat on one of the hard wooden benches facing the tree. My mother would have loved this garden. Hers had been wonderful, but even her green thumb couldn’t compare to this masterpiece.
How I wished she were still with me so I could talk to her about my problems. She was such a strong woman. I admired her courage during her illness, how she had fought the cancer for so long when others would have given up. I longed to be more like her.
I only vaguely remembered our time together when I’d been a young girl. I could conjure images of her helping me work the sewing machine or mix up a batch of cookies, but could never quite remember how I had felt in those moments. I assumed I had been happy.
What was easier to recall were my teen years when she had been sick and struggling, years when I desperately needed a shoulder to cry on because my best friend turned on me or a boy I liked made fun of me. I hadn’t been able to burden her then with my problems; hers were far worse than mine. Yet I treasured those days with her. There were special moments, like the daily text with the picture of a magnolia, times I would always cherish.
It hadn’t been easy for any of us, but it had been especially hard on my father. Through it all he had maintained his rectitude. No matter how difficult life became, no matter how challenging it was to take care of both my mother and me, he was resolute in his determination to care for her. It wasn’t until her final weeks that he had to admit he needed help. Even then he paid a nurse to come into our home rather than putting her into hospice. It was because of his sense of righteousness that she was able to spend her final days in the home she had so adored, surrounded by loved ones.
Sadly the burden of those years took their toll on him. Focusing all his energy on taking care of us he had neglected his own health until one day, just over a year after she had passed, he died unexpectedly with a blocked artery, a tragedy easily avoided had it been discovered in time.
And so I found myself alone, both my parents gone, estranged from my friends, Lily refusing to speak to me. Without anyone to turn to. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I felt hunted, like the antelope being stalked by a lion, just waiting to pounce.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompts Rectitude and is part of something longer I’m working on.
This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after How Would I Ever Solve the Problem with All These Interruptions?