Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gardening, Grieving and Guffawing

Mountain Mama Mamie has been saying for the last two springs that she’s too old to garden. We refuse to believe that she’s really giving it up any more than we want to believe that she’s giving up her hens. She’s the first to admit that she sells the eggs to give people a reason to stop in to visit. Work is what has gotten Mamie out of bed for at least the last seventy-five years; what will motivate her if she gives up the garden and her egg business?

Mamie keeps us posted on what needs to be done in the garden and when it needs doing. She declared it time to weed the beets and carrots, adding that it didn’t matter that it was still too mushy to have Richard run between the rows with a tiller. What needed weeding were the actual rows, and she would help me do that part.

When I went over to weed the, I stopped in to tell her that I was going to the garden. Even though she had told me that she would help me with the job, I really didn’t expect her to. I figured it was just her way of impressing on me the importance of doing the work. I thought about not telling her until after I finished, but I just didn’t want to hurt her feelings by not telling her I was getting started.

As I bent to my task of cleaning out the carrot row, along came Mamie in her jeans and garden shoes to begin the beet row. We weeded and chatted and guffawed for about two hours, occasionally straightening up to peruse our potato plants and pull the bugs off the leaves. We continually congratulated ourselves on how productive our preferred exercise program was. Who needed stretching classes when we could bend and stretch all we wanted as we worked those weeds out of the soil?

As I neared the end of my row, ninety-year-old Mamie put me to shame. She had not only finished her row, she proceeded to weed the last little bit of mine. Finished with gardening, indeed! At this point Mamie announced that it was time to clean up and change our clothes to get to the memorial service for a long-time artist-in-residence in Coker Creek. She had already been dressed up once that day to attend her great granddaughter’s graduation ceremony. When I saw her at the service, she was looking bright as a new penny. The Energizer Bunny has nothing on Mamie.

Mamie knows a lot about pacing oneself and that there’s a time and season for everything. She also has much to teach about turning worry and grief into productive action. Her concern about the nation’s economy prompted her to recruit me and Richard into learning to garden. Her grief over the loss of her oldest son to death and the loss of her oldest daughter to Alzheimer’s prompted her to put on her gardening clothes and go destroy some potato bugs and weeds.

I’m lucky to learn from such an accomplished example of gracefully accepting life’s lessons.


  1. great entry Y. T'would be good if we all could pace ourselves, and actually knew that there was a time and season for everything.

    Amazing what some folk can do no matter what age.

    Hang in there, and keep things hopping at Coker creek.

  2. oh, the things we learn from these 'aged'---they can fool us into thinking they are old and weak. I would love to meet Mamie. I loved Frank. and you know I loved Bob "Kelly" Hardin. May they rest in peace.