Son of Lemon Tree

Late yesterday afternoon, my friend Robert called.

He said, “Go look out your kitchen window.”

Being a dutiful person, I immediately went to the kitchen and saw the top of a green plant swaying back and forth as if wind were blowing it. But there was no wind, and when I went outside I saw Robert’s partner, Ron, kneeling under the window swishing a small lemon tree back and forth in front of the window. The tree was planted in an enormous round ceramic pot, one big enough to allow for a lot of root expansion, and the pot was balanced on a stack of mulch bags.

Ron and Robert were grinning like kids who had pulled off the best stunt in the world. Ron said, “We knew how much you enjoyed having the lemon tree to look at, so we got you another one. It’s a sweet lemon.”

Robert said, “It’s not very tall, so I’m going to build a wooden platform for the pot to sit on, and that will raise it.”

I was so touched by their kindness, and so thrilled to have a lemon tree again, that I just kept saying, “Oh, wow!” like an idiot.

I suspect that it will take a few years before the little tree has lemons, but butterflies will like it anyway, and soon it will be strong enough to support a curious squirrel. Every time I look at it I think of my friends’ kindness and of Ron crouched under the window moving the thing back and forth to simulate wind in its little branches, and that makes me smile. When it has out-grown its pot, maybe the danger of being killed by other people’s herbicides will be over. If the danger still exists, I guess we’ll get a bigger pot.

It’s great to have another lemon tree. It’s even greater to have good friends.


Flu Blessings

Man, have I been sick! This is day 13 of the witch of all vicious viruses. It’s like the worst morning sickness I ever had, or the time I drank 5 margaritas in a row. Except those toilet-hugging episodes only lasted a short time, and this seemed to have moved in to stay. The doctor’s office didn’t exactly tell me not to darken their door and spread it around, but they strongly encouraged me to stay in bed, drink lots of fluids, and tough it out. So I have slept like a hibernating bear, done a lot of moaning and groaning, and been profoundly grateful for good friends.

Suzanne and Bob were at my door within 20 minutes of my call for help, bringing Tylenol, hot water bottles, Sprites, saltines, and popsicles. Veterans of the bug, they assured me that I only felt as if I were dying, and they went way beyond what anybody has the right to expect from other people. Way beyond. Another friend, Jane, drove around looking for special foods I might be able to eat, stocking my refrigerator with enough jello to float the entire neighborhood. Linda called every day to see if I needed anything, and went to church and prayed for me. When the temperature dipped below freezing, Michael, who hates cold air more than anything in the world, came and shivered while he covered tender plants in my yard with sheets. Kim ran errands for me, and Edith gave up her own time with a quantum healer and asked her to direct the computerized energy to me instead. (By the way, the distance energy healing sort of lifted a mental fog I’d been in, and when I’m well I’m going to go see the practitioner for some more sessions.)

At one of my lowest points, when I dissolved into helpless, frustrated, angry sobs, Bob said, “This is how we learn humility.” He was right. This virus has imparted enough humility to last the rest of my life. But every problem comes with a gift in its hands, and the gift has been the outpouring of love and friendship. In time, all the pain and various indignities will fade from memory like childbirth, but the gift of friendship will stay with me forever. So as bad as it has been, and while I sure as heck never want it again, I’m thankful for this awful bug.

Friendship Is The Greatest Treasure

My friend Kasey left awhile ago to return to Houston after visiting me for a few days, and I’m still grinning like an idiot just from the sheer fun of it. Kasey’s real name is Kay, and for a time she had a last name that began with a C, so she became KC or Kasey. I still call her that even though she shed the last name that began with a C and the husband who gave it to her a long time ago. Kasey is the kind of friend that everybody should have. She has an infectious laugh and a droll sense of humor and is one of the smartest and kindest women in the universe. Once, when I was flat broke and scared, Kasey offered me quite a lot of money. Not as a loan, just a flat out gift. I didn’t take it, but she would have been happy to give it to me. She’s that kind of friend.

When I was living in Philadelphia and missing Tex-Mex food like crazy, Kasey came to visit with a cooler filled with quarts of salsa, chili con queso, and guacamole sauce. She came to visit when I was living in France, too, and after a day of sightseeing we took a wrong turn and drove all over the mountain roads of the Cote d’ Azure in the dark, lost as blind worms. Kasey was driving the rental car, and she finally announced in a very loud voice, “I am never turning back again! I am only going forward!” As it turned out, going forward took us to a town with lights and streets where we could get our bearings and figure out which way was home, so we’ve taken that as our credo. “I am never turning back again! I am only going forward!”

During the last few days, we’ve laughed our heads off and sometimes shed a few tears. We’ve caught each other up on all the ups and downs of our lives since we were together, and shared the challenges we know are ahead. And then we’ve raised our wine glasses and shouted, “I am never turning back again! I am only going forward!”

I am extremely blessed to have Kasey as a friend.

Fay’s Way

Tropical storm Fay arrived in Florida on my birthday, which created some odd juxtapositions. Out of state friends and family called with happy birthday wishes tinged with anxiety because the storm was projected to roar through Sarasota. A dear friend who had planned a birthday dinner party for the night staunchly continued to prepare for 12 guests while her husband boarded up windows. Other friends loyally got out their high-riding trucks so they could clear flooded streets if necessary. Two of the couples live in a flood zone, so they planned to come to my house the next day and ride out the storm. One of the couples has 5 cats. The other couple said it would be a good thing to have 5 cats in the house during a hurricane — that way each of us could have our own cat. As it turned out, Fay didn’t follow the predicted path up Florida’s west coast at all, but has ambled around the east coast, zigzagging off and on to hit the state three times.

I’m having a peculiar mix of emotions over the whole thing. First, a profound gratitude for having friends not only willing to celebrate my birthday but willing to do it when they thought a hurricane was on the way. Then, a general gratitude for all the friends in my life who enrich and sweeten every experience. I always feel inadequate at expressing how much I value them, and I’m feeling even more inadequate now. And, living in Florida where the threat of hurricanes is an annual given, I’m also filled with gratitude that my particular area was spared Fay’s flooding and destruction. Mixed in with all that happy gratitude is the vague feeling of guilt, the irrational sense that my area’s good luck somehow comes at the expense of those unlucky ones who are today sharing space with alligators and snakes in the floodwaters.

I suppose that’s part of being human. At any given moment, some of us are celebrating our great fortune while others of us are grieving our losses. No matter how much we may empathize with the ones whose turn it is to grieve, we shouldn’t let our empathy dampen our happiness when it’s our turn to celebrate. So in spite of my compassion for my fellow Fay-blasted Floridians today, I’m quietly relishing my own happiness.