by Martin Green



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. I’d 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? I’d read that the late writer Norman Mailer didn’t 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 they’d lose their authority over our water use. The dreary weather didn’t help. It was after two o’clock 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 didn’t think he knew much more about gardening than I did. I’d 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 clouds.

I hadn’t done anything outside in a couple of years. My back ached on and off and I didn’t like to bend down. Still, I didn’t have anything else to do so I thought I’d try to fertilize the roses. It was getting to February and Antonio wouldn’t be coming until the next week. Besides my back, my balance wasn’t too steady and Sally wasn’t home. I’d 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 wasn’t much but I’d taken care of our roses and I’d see how they did when they started blooming in the spring.



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