by Cathy Sikorski:
What happens when a two–year-old and a 92-year-old join forces and conspire against their primary caregiver? The picture is at times not pretty, but it’s always heartwarming and witty. Elder care attorney Cathy Sikorski penned this memoir about her days as a stay-at-home mom whose life is turned upside down when her Nana moves in. In between the adventures and misadventures that ensue when the toddler and grandmother become allies, Sikorski learns about patience, the importance of humor and the joy that results from a well-deserved nap.
The sun was shining with a vengeance. It was momentarily springtime. We all had the fever of spring. It was delicious. We were outside. We were free from the enclosures of winter. Enough with the “cozy” as we were all saying “Let us out in the mud, the sticks, the gravel, and the mulch. We were going aplanting this week.” It would be a gargantuan endeavor. Usually, I plant three or four hundred flowers in the spring. Shade envelops my entire yard, with one exception, where I plant a few tomatoes and peppers. This season, my evil assistants would be helping with the beautification project.
Most of the real planting would be done during naptime. But in order to get these two some fresh air and make them tired, I enlisted them as garden gnomes—I mean assistants. Nana had done this job many times. So, she knew her way around a trowel. It’s what she forgot that was frustrating, dangerous and downright scary.
We began with our wardrobes. I have never seen Nana wear pants a day in her life. My mom told me that during World War II, Nana wore pants to work because that’s what everyone was doing, but since then, she was strictly a dress person. There was nothing dramatic about these dresses. They were certainly not cocktail attire. But for some reason, she preferred a dress. A dress also meant stockings and shoes with heels. Nana did not believe in pantyhose. She wore garters, not the sexy Victoria’s Secret kind but the elastic bands that are about three inches thick and sit right above the knee kind. And even though the heels on her shoes were “serviceable” which meant they were two inches thick all the way around, they would still sink her into the mud like a shipwreck.
I tried to entice her to at least wear my garden clogs. But after a sashay around the kitchen that looked like she’d been nipping at the vodka, we agreed to let her wear her own shoes. This prompted Rachel to want to garden in her Cinderella slippers. Round one—the interlopers.
Off we went in tiaras and heels to the garden. Earlier in the morning, I had arranged the trowels, watering cans, plants, hose and fertilizer for easy access. Rachel ran right to the flower flats and started pulling out impatiens by their pretty little budded heads. Now they were decapitated. What did I do in response to this?
“NO! DO NOT DO THAT RACHEL!” not in my kindest voice.
What did Rachel, a little, excited two year old who is trying to help her Mommy do? Cried like a banshee.
Who was the worst mother on the planet?
Nana reminded me, “She was only trying to help, honey girl.”
Sheepishly I said, “I know, Nana, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t apologize to me, you didn’t yell at me this time.”
I scooped up the injured soldier and hugged and kissed her tears away, apologized profusely, and we started all over again.
“Now, Mommy will dig the holes with Rachel. And then Nana can take the flowers out of the planters and hand them to us so we can put them in the ground.”
“No, Mommy. I do the flowers,” said Princess Rachel adjusting her tiara as it flopped over her eyes.
“Rachel, let’s try it this way first and see how it works.”
I put the trowel in her hand and helped her dig a hole. Instantaneously, a big fat worm crawled on to the trowel and toward her pudgy little hand.
“AAAHHHH,” she said.
“It’s only a worm,” I said. Meanwhile inside I’m saying “AAAHHH”.
“No worms, Mommy. Don’t like it.”
Quite frankly, neither did I. I relented.
“Okay, you help Nana with the flowers, while I dig the hole.”
We had been outside for thirty minutes and had yet to plant one flower. We commenced. I dug about ten holes as quickly as possible. They got into the swing of things pretty quickly, and began to hand me the flowers one by one. Henry Ford was right about assembly lines. This one worked for a while until Nana decided it was time to fill the watering cans. While my back was turned, she picked up the hose and put it in the watering can. She squeezed the nozzle. The watering can went flying across the driveway. Water shot across Rachel’s tiara which took flight into the dogwood tree, and sent a lovely sluice up my back.
“That’s it! Planting is over!” I declared with the authority of a despot.
Nana and Rachel erupted in the giggles. Nana harbored that gleam in her blue-grey eyes, and I couldn’t believe what I thought was going to happen next. She aimed that hose right at us and squirted again. Rachel screamed with pure relish. I was yelling.
“Stop that! You stop that right now!”
No use. They were having too much fun.
This continued for awhile. All their clothes got sufficiently soaked. Now it was getting a bit cold out there, and the plants were starting to be attacked as well.
“Okay, that’s it. Fun’s over!” Wow, did I say that? I hated when my Mom used to say that. Why was the fun over? The fun should never be over.
When did I stop seeing the fun?
They laughed all through cleaning up and getting into their beds for a nap. My house was filled with peals of joy. Even the dog barked a happy bark.
I went outside in the quiet and planted three hundred flowers as fast as I could with a tiara on my head and a soaking wet t-shirt.