My Wednesday morning mood felt vibrant as the blossoms in my garden. I had picked one of each color and set them on the weathered arms of our Adirondacks the night before. By sunup, they were still lively. Perhaps my cheerful state was a remnant of the previous day when I had laid face up in a field of grass and watched gulls gliding way up high. If only for a moment, I had melted into the earth of my childhood, as if back in my faded floral swimsuit, coconut oil slathered over my golden arms and legs. Watching bumble bees mine the clover. Studying ants and beetles climbing over my hands. Seeing small aircraft soar in the sky. Not a care in the world.
Later that morning, I made an impromptu visit to a dear friend. I sat in the car with the windows down, he in a white plastic chair. We chatted in the half-shade near his barn. In the back seat Calvin chewed contentedly on the ear of his crocheted rabbit. The remains of the day seemed full of promise: I had hoped to host another friend for coffee in the garden; Michael and I were going to put Calvin in the stroller and take an afternoon walk along the river; I was thinking of throwing down some mulch. None of that came to pass because Calvin had several meltdowns which led, as they often do, to my own.
By midafternoon, Calvin's little black cloud had descended upon me. I became vexed dealing with my bat-shit crazy child. No clue as to the source of his misery. It's times like these when grace sometimes goes out the window. I felt tight, impatient, haggard and hollowed out—a shell of myself. I caught a glimpse of my face in the bathroom mirror. What I saw staring back at me was fatigue, frustration, resentment and ugliness, the kind seated more deeply than wrinkled skin.
Finally, Michael came home to hang out with Calvin so I could take my late-afternoon walk with Smellie. On the narrow path that I usually choose was a couple headed our direction. Ever-so-slightly stooped and probably in their eighties, they each grasped a walking stick. So as not to risk Smellie toppling them, I veered left of the cyclone fence. Midway down the long divide we approached each other. I greeted the couple and asked how they were doing. From the opposite side of the rusty fence they introduced themselves as Alice and Kent, out-of-towners here for a stint. We stood and visited for twenty or thirty minutes, speaking of the pandemic, graduation parties, and vacation rentals. They mentioned their sons, both of whom graduated years ago from Bowdoin. When I revealed my age, Kent told me I was still very attractive. Blushing, I thanked him for the compliment. Little did he know how much it meant to me that day.
They went on to ask if I had children, so I told them all about Calvin. Sorrow crept across their faces when I described him—seventeen, nonverbal, legally blind, incontinent, cerebral palsy, intractable epilepsy. They wondered how I coped. I mentioned that writing and gardening are my therapies. Having expressed interest in reading my blog, they gave me their email addresses. I invited them to stop by and see my garden. "It's just up the street," I said, "so much is in bloom right now." They assured me at some point they would visit. I wanted to reach through the cyclone fence and hold them in my arms.
When I got home I wrote to Kent and Alice telling them that they had made my day. Kent wrote back within the hour saying:
I am not sure I could ever provide the love and care you have given your seventeen year old son, Calvin. You are a real inspiration and through it all, you have carried on with a positive attitude and good sense of humor! Nice going!!
I remembered that I had told Alice and Kent that I came by my (mostly) upbeat attitude by way of my mother and hers. And as the remains of the day dwindled, I looked out over my garden so full of pink and purple blossoms—my mother's favorite colors—my heart bursting with gratitude for simple encounters with loving friends and strangers just when I seem to need them most.