Summer in its full glow. Colorado has had more rain than ever in its recorded history. The trees, the shrubs, the flowers are greener and prettier than I have ever seen them. When I take my daily walk on the trail, the blooming wildflowers are a colorful treat. That’s the good. The bad is the thistles are showing their purple flowers all over the place. If you reader don't know the horror of thistles, let me tell you—they are big, prickly, awful and take over, choking out everything in their path. I hope the county gets out and sprays or by next year it will be all thistles and none of the dear wildflowers. Let’s hope!
Each summer it seems to get hotter and hotter. When Bob and I chose to settle in the Denver area, I thought we would be able to live without air conditioning, which is usually too cool for me. Silly girl. No way is that possible. The Lodge is well cooled. Often too cold for my taste so I carry a shawl with me all the time.
The Death of a Beloved Family Member
I was planning to dog-sit Willow, my kid’s golden retriever for a week this month. I had some concerns in spring when I offered. Could I manage walking her? Yet as she has gotten older, she has become more passive like all of us aging critters and more manageable, again like us. Well I won’t have to watch her because she died a few weeks ago. She was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. My daughter and her family refused aggressive treatment and allowed her to die naturally. To relieve her pain, Willow took the medications we humans take. She died while my two grandsons were home from college, and my working granddaughter, my traveling son-in law and my daughter, Willow’s steady comforting caretaker, were also home. I was there too in the family bathroom where she lay as a retired veterinarian gave her a final shot. My granddog died in the most humane way. We humans can learn from this.
To digress a bit and focus on something that was not in my original plan for this post, The mind does funny things. Perhaps I began with the Willow story as a lead-in to something I consider very important. It was not a conscious decision, believe me. I want to recommend a book. Anyone who reads SeniorHomes.com is a reader who would appreciate this remarkable, readable work of nonfiction Being Mortal—Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon. From the book’s cover, “Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life all the way to the end.” Willow, my granddog had a good life all the way to the end. It is my urgent hope that we humans can have that privilege as well. Please read this important book.
Off my soapbox and back to life at my CCRC.
Spending Summer with a Lemon Tree
Let me tell you about my lemon tree. Actually she is not mine. I am not sure why I call her “she” but I do. I care for her every summer so in the summertime she belongs to me. During the rest of the year she lives in a cottage with her real owners. They arrived with her five years ago. A five-foot-tall lemon tree, she lives in a 19 inch by 19 inch planter that is on wheels. Most of the year she lives in my friends’ garage with special grow lights and on beautiful warm Colorado days, she basks in the sun in their driveway. My friends have a home in South Carolina and live there June through September.
When I lived in my cottage, they pulled her by rope to my cottage to spend the summers in my driveway. I could pull her inside the garage during bad weather. She has prospered in my care, developing lots of blossoms that became lemons when she returns home. When the lemons ripened, my friends brought me a delicious lemon chiffon pie and lemons for my ice tea. And then I moved to the Lodge.
This summer is the third summer she is on my deck. It’s not quite as easy for her owners or for me now to babysit her; it's a seven-minute walk up a hill from my friends' cottage to my apartment, which also involves an elevator ride to the sixth floor. But we continue and I take great pleasure watching her. When she’s here, I worry about her during severe rainstorms and hailstorms because she is too heavy for me to pull inside. She now must live outdoors all summer. Fortunately she has survived. Each time I think she isn’t going to make it, she does. She may lose leaves and blossoms and be shaken up, but she recovers and has her crop of lemons when she gets home. One time the husband whispered to me, “We’ve had her for fifteen years and if she doesn’t make it don’t worry.” But I do worry and so far so good.
Let me end here with a quote I read on a website by John Byrne; “Getting older is fine. There is nothing you can do to stop it so you might as well stay on the bus.” I’m on the bus and you will hear from me next month.
This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.