I was alone in our house in our Northern California retirement
community. My wife Sally had gone to lunch with the girls, none of
whom were under seventy. Id finished my own lunch, a tasteless sandwich,
put away my plate and was sitting in our enclosed patio, feeling despondent.
Why did I feel this way? Id read that the late writer Norman Mailer
didnt like people asking him how he felt because at his age how was he
expected to feel but lousy and this was when he was only in his early eighties.
I had turned 85 at the end of last year, which was now a month ago. 85. No
wonder I felt despondent.
It had been an unusually rainy winter in California, although
the State authorities were as usual reluctant to say our drought was over,
maybe because then theyd lose their authority over our water use. The
dreary weather didnt help. It was after two oclock so time to see
if the mail had come. It was still drizzling so I decided to go through the
garage and noticed that the rose fertilizer Sally was supposed to put out for
Antonio was still on the table. Antonio was our gardener, more accurately our
yardman, as I didnt think he knew much more about gardening than I did.
Id have to talk to Sally about the rose fertilizer; she was getting
forgetful. So, for that matter, was I. It seemed much lighter outside and I saw
that the drizzle had stopped and the sun was trying to break through the
I hadnt done anything outside in a couple of years. My
back ached on and off and I didnt like to bend down. Still, I didnt
have anything else to do so I thought Id try to fertilize the roses. It
was getting to February and Antonio wouldnt be coming until the next
week. Besides my back, my balance wasnt too steady and Sally wasnt
home. Id have to be careful where I stepped. I pictured myself lying on
my back in a bunch of weeds and unable to get up. It had happened to more than
one person we knew. As a precaution, I put my cell phone in my pocket.
I found my old rake and cleared the dead leaves and other stuff
from the bases of our six rose plants. I made sure not to trip over any roots
in the ground. Then I poured the fertilizer out around each plant and used the
rake to get it into the ground. Finally, I got the hose and watered the
fertilizer in. By this time the sun had come through; it had gotten warm and I
was almost sweating. I put everything away and repaired to my lazy-boy recliner
in the bedroom. My back was killing me and I wondered if I had any pain pills
left. I might take a shower after a while. Despite the physical pain, I was
feeling a little bit better. It wasnt much but Id taken care of our
roses and Id see how they did when they started blooming in the