A trouble buried deep in the garden.

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  • By J-Dogg, Jonn Karsseboom
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I didn’t really want to have the difficult conversation but the majority of my three brothers and three sisters had already tried in various ways and it was, in the world’s book of fairness, clearly my turn.

I didn’t really want to have the difficult conversation but the majority of my three brothers and three sisters had already tried in various ways and it was, in the world’s book of fairness, clearly my turn.

 

Before I started off, I managed to throw in my pruners and shears into the trunk of the car. Hopefully I would catch my mom, on this sunny fall day exactly where I expected her to be- somewhere in her garden.

 

My mom, in all of her eclectic oddities; she wears hats others wouldn’t, rides her bike miles to attend Zumba class, loves and cares for a giant Bernese Mountain dog that she named “Cinderella” (who obeys only some of her commands), feeds a colorful macaw (among dozens of other birds) that she allows outside in her overgrown and rarely pruned apple tree -is the unsung hero of our family. 

 

It was through her quiet influence, her steady time always in the garden that all of my brothers, as well as myself, make our living with plants.

 

And all of my sisters garden too. Even my youngest, most spoiled sister who grew up loving the easy life of malls and fashion and nice cars and shoes (she won’t read this ever) has managed to bloom and grow a wonderful garden.

 

My mom has accomplished all that and so much more. In the middle of raising her seven children she managed to become an intensive care nurse. She’s been on a care team in a most desperate part of the world. When she travels, she loads her suitcase with clothes and toys to give to needy children. You wouldn’t know it by her unorthodox landscaping style (it’s a mess) but she’s also a top expert gardener.  She’s also an alcoholic.

 

Alcoholism, in my opinion, suffers greatly from a too-narrow public relations impression. The picture goes like this: An alcoholic usually spends a lot of time in dark bars and grows increasingly feisty when bartenders refuse to serve. They always weave and wobble when they walk and slur their words when they speak. Eventually they all lose their job because of missed work. The tell-tale sign of an officially stamped “Alcoholic”?  It’s the picture of when they’ve hit “bottom” passed out on the floor with some half-empty square shaped bottle in their hands. 

 

But a 77-year old mom/grandmother that drinks wine at night? Just like in the garden the impression of what we hope (or think) it looks like can be very different than what it actually is. 

 

When I saw her in her red oversized hat I grabbed my pruners and started right in to an overgrown clump of Shasta daisies. It had been years since I helped in her garden and so many memories came flooding back.

 

“Are you here to check up on me?” she smartly asked.

 

I was.  Yet we continued to prune and trim. We enjoyed the warm sun and the smell of dirt and grass and the sense of accomplishment that the garden gave in abundance. 

 

“I can handle a few glasses of wine at night.” She began again.  I knew better. Her “few” glasses would eventually begin at noon. A stockpile of wine would grow.  She would spend a little less time outside.

 

It was a mistake for us to think an intensive 3-week rehab at a medical clinic would be the end of it. It shoudn’t have been much of a surprise when we found her with a half-finished glass of wine a month later. But it was. The news devastated us. 

 

“I honestly don’t think I have a problem.” She reasserted. I suppose I was disappointed that a lifetime spent in the real world of the garden would somehow easily transfer to how we see ourselves. It didn’t. And it doesn’t. 

 

The garden isn’t a cure-all I’ve discovered. Its amazing powers won’t keep my mom from drinking. Right now, its only solace is that like recovery, a season can be long and arduous and terribly slow. And this change of seasons may only be a sign to us to begin again. 

 

Bio: Jonn Karsseboom lives, works and gardens in Tualatin.

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