Yesterday I went to visit Nora, a wisp of a woman in her late 80’s. She lives in an apartment in a retirement home, a rather posh place with a lovely dining room and more activities than anyone can imagine. Nora has a two-bedroom corner apartment with an l-shaped balcony that allows her to do some box gardening and also to observe the gardens around the grounds of the facility.
Her earth box, as she calls it, contains different things each year–this is our fourth summer of visits–and she took great delight in telling me she has planted okra!! Not for the vegetable, she said, but for the beautiful blossom. Planting was late due to our rainy late spring and early summer, in which Nora didn’t feel like starting her gardening, but if we have a long warm fall, she said, it will produce lovely flowers in mid-October.
Nora lives with severe chronic pain. Pain has been as much her companion as the flowers and jigsaw puzzles and button pictures and paintings she has nurtured and solved and created. Her eye is as sharp as her body is frail. We discussed the idea that a recent fall might suggest the need to go to assisted living. “Sometimes,” she said, “I just want to get out of here, but I don’t want to go to the next place.”
I remember feeling that way, that emotional and psychological pain were just too much to bear, that I just wanted to get out of where I was. But I didn’t really want to go to the next place, as hard as it was to be in this one.
I had children, and the need to care for them eventually brought me back to groundedness, brought me back to living.
Nora has no children, but she always has an idea for a creative and kind way to spend her time. She is going to knit a teddy bear, although for some reason she just couldn’t remember how to cast on the stitches. We sat and she watched me begin a long-tail cast-on, holding the yarn over my left thumb and making stitches on the needle in my right hand.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Of course! Why couldn’t I remember that?”
Pain clouds our thinking.
I don’t understand why medicine cannot provide relief to people with pain like Nora’s. Her young nephews tell her that marijuana can be bought readily in City By the Sea. We’ve talked before about how some people are using it for pain.
“I wouldn’t want them to get into trouble. *I* wouldn’t want to get into trouble!!!”
We drank our cups of Earl Grey Tea on her balcony, and then it was time for me to leave. We stopped at the library to see the puzzle in progress and placed a few pieces in it. She came out the front door with me, and we walked across the grass to the kitchen garden, where they are growing gladiolus she supplied. They can’t grow the thing that might ease her bodily pain, but the vibrant flowers provide a different balm.
I’ll be back to see the okra blossoms.