Monday, May 11, 2009
The rain let up and we went for a walk through the neighborhood. Bright colors of new spring growth treat us at every turn. Old cherry trees bloom, along with tulips, azaleas, and incredibly fragrant lilacs. We stop at Rudy’s and from the sidewalk, can hear his television.
AdRi stays with Wink in the yard while I knock. After a few raps, he comes to the door and his whole face lights up when he sees me. “Are you goin’ for a walk?” he asks. “Yes, Rudy, and we thought we’d stop by to visit.” Before I can finish my greeting he’s turning off the television and preparing to come out and join us.
Rudy’s azaleas are blooming. He’s a fine pruner and has shaped his azaleas just so. While I coo over their lovely purple hue, he’s complaining how they’ll grow “this high” if he doesn’t prune them back. Gardening is exactly like that: the gardener sees the work to be done, the visitor sees the beauty of the moment.
“Oh boy, can you believe that?” Rudy says with wonder as we all admire the neighbor’s wisteria along the shared fence. It’s at least 40-feet long and winding among the chain link. On this temperate May evening, the sweet bubble-gum scent floats through the air. Rudy can’t smell it. At 95 he says his ability to smell “is shot.” AdRi and I inhale deeply and tell him it’s glorious. It is.
Wink loves the big swaths of grass in Rudy’s yard: she runs off leash to the back. Rudy points out his nice patch of heather and explains he planted it when he and his wife first moved into this North Portland house. And the rhododendron that blooms a delicate white? A gift from her to him, her gardening husband. Rudy’s eyes wander a bit when he speaks of her. “Gosh, I come out here and almost expect her to jump out from behind it,” he says about that rhodie. He loved her so much. He drifts into stories of her hospitalization. It’s good for him to talk about it but I can see his eyes fill with water. The loss of her is palpable in every visit with Rudy. I had noticed her name is still next to his on the front door sticker for the postman and it makes my heart ache a little. I can’t imagine living without AdRi, how much our lives are intertwined. How every plant in our garden has a story and how she’s connected to them, and I to her. Visits with Rudy remind me to love my life right now, my friends, my family, and especially my partner: life changes.
“It feels so good to get out of that darn house” Rudy says. He tells us his neighbor is helping with his laundry and I’m relieved. He needs that help and at 95 with no family to watch out for him, he can’t keep up with everything.
We admire the unfurling of the tight coils in Rudy’s native ferns that grow in long strips in his side yard. Their curled tips are opening up to a new season. As for the huge hot pink rhodie , he’s not cutting it back. It could take years for it to recover from a heavy prune. “I won’t be around to see it come back!” Rudy says. And I change the conversation.