04 September 2007

Plants

I hate taking care of plants. I hate gardening. I hate yardwork. I hate all of it.

I love having plants around, and I love the idea of having a garden or a flowerbed. The problem is that at the end of the day, plants are just something else to take care of. I have enough to take care of. By the time I get to the plants, I have run out of steam.

John loved plants. When we moved in together, his plants had to wear seatbelts for the trip from his apartment to our place. They all had names. He lovingly tended all of his houseplants until he could not get out of bed anymore.

Knowing how much those plants meant to John, it's hard not to feel like a failure as I watch them die one by one. I'm trapped: looking at the dead plants gives me a sick, guilty feeling, as though I've let John down, but I can't bear to throw away things that were so important to him. Of course, now they are dead things. I seriously have two totally dead bonsai in the living room, Akira and Keisuke. Every week, on trash night, I think I'm going to be able to take them down and toss them. And every week I just don't have it in me.

I hate how physical traces of John are slowly being erased from the condo. There are lots of pictures around, but his stuff is being overtaken by the kids' stuff, by my stuff. Most of his clothes are gone, donated and hopefully being worn by someone who need them. His videogames are being used by family friends. I have plans to send his DVDs to the soldiers in Iraq; there are precious few movies I feel a need to own, and while not a supporter of the war, John was an ardent supporter of the troops. We're in desperate need of bookshelf space, and guess whose books are more likely to go? I'm not a big history buff, especially not military history, and I'm also not huge on biographies. John had huge collections of both. Something has to give.

I hate clutter, I hate having things in my house that aren't being used. But I also hate saying goodbye to reminders of my husband. It's a balancing act. But this may be the week that the dead plants go to the curb. Their dry, brittle presence is bringing back more unpleasant memories than good. Maybe that should be my rule of thumb: keep the things that recall happy times. Let go of the things that bring pain.

24 comments:

Alasse said...

I totally agree with the last paragraph.
Besides, John would want you to take care of yourself and the twins - if giving up taking care of the garden helps you do that, all the better.
If the bookshelf situation gets out of control, maybe you should select a handful of items that were specially important to him, then give up the rest? Maybe call a friend to help you do it, turn it into a rite, make it meaningful?
Just some random thoughts from a regular reader/lurker ;)

Rachel said...

I think your rule of thumb makes sense, but it must be so hard to let go of his things.

I kill plants too. It's terrible, because I love how they look, but I have a black thumb. You shouldn't feel bad. You have so much on your plate right now.

I would keep a few things that were very special to him, to pass onto the twins. And for the rest, maybe you could photograph things before getting rid of them?

soralis said...

I think the rule of thumb would be a great idea. I can't imagine how I would cope as I am not so good at letting go of things.

take care

Rev Dr Mom said...

I think your are right on when you say you should keep the things that recall happy times.

And I am totally with you about gardening and yard work--it has no appeal to me whatsoever.

Robin J. said...

This post really hit me hard when I read it. I can totally feel for you. Not quite the same, but my mom is always asking me to take this or that to hold on to after she dies. Since she has had two near-death experiences within a year's time, she thinks about dying often. Plus she is elderly. So she is always asking me if I want this and that. I feel guilty if I say no, but the simple truth is that if an object doesn't have meaning to me, I can't keep it because I barely have enough room for the here and now and I want to save things of my own kids. I have no place for her things, and even saying so makes me feel callous, when I am not.

I would feel the same way as you. But you are doing the right thing. It's not easy being realistic when you feel emotional.

Hairline Fracture said...

I remember a widow once told me that it's strange what you can't let yourself get rid of. For her, she had to leave her husband's slippers on his side of the bed. For my mother-in-law, it's her husband's cell phone (she won't get it deactivated.) Because of what the friend said, I haven't thought it was silly for my MIL to keep what reminds her of the man she loved.

It makes sense to me for you to keep what reminds you of the good times, and to keep those things in their own special place where you will see them often.

Kristin said...

I'm sorry this is so hard (and that it's one in a long line of things that have been this way) - but I think you said it very well in the last few lines. On the other side, if you really can't bear to throw things away...I like Rachel's idea of taking pictures. And, are you crafty? (In your Copious Free Time, right?) Or do you know somebody who is? How about shadow boxes with a few small key items, like dried flowers from a favorite plant? (You can get silica powder from craft stores to dry flowers in.) Or a little wall quilt (or a big comfortable one) from some well-loved clothes? Maybe these might allow you ways to save a little bit of things that still feel hard to part with, while not adding the weight of guilt quite so heavily.

Best wishes -

laura said...

I think that sounds like a good rule ... it might be hard to enforce.

This may be a stupid suggestion, but would taking pictures of some of these things help? You can always remember the things that John really liked, without having them clutter?

L. said...

I also like the idea of taking photos of things you can't keep. Or, with the books, you could write down the ISBNs just so the twins could see what John read. That kind of thing could speak volumes to them (so to speak) without saddling you with every last item.

As for the plants, perhaps you could ask around about giving them away to people you know? Many people would love a nice plant or two, and chances are decent they'd keep them happy and healthy.

Yankee T said...

Oh this is so difficult. So difficult. What a balancing act, indeed. Sending you love and the hope for the balance you need.

Amy said...

Heart breaking but I think you have it spot on. Keep the things that remind you of happy times and get rid of the rest.

I too hate clutter and gawd knows kids provide enough for an entire household. I am a chuck'er. If it is not being used or loved it is gone.

Are any more plants still living? I know my friend was given a plant owned by her dear late aunt. How she treasures that plant and watching it flourish.

And keep some mementos for the kids for when they get older. So good for them to have something Dad treasured.

Rachel said...

Have you thought about taking pictures of the house with his things in it, or of the things he loved and then putting them in a special album? That way you could still have the reminders of his presence to show the babes later on, without the physical clutter.

Glory Laine said...

I don't know if this helps or not but know it's a suggestion with the best intention. When I have something that is really sentimental that I am having a hard time letting go of....I take a picture of it, take a deep breath and throw it away. Sometimes I'll write a little something about said object and include the photo....
I don't know if this helps but a photo doesn't take up much room and is easier to dust.

PS. I kill all plants too. Once the twins were born everything that was kinda hanging on...left this world with in weeks. Like you said, I have better things to take care of.

buddha_girl said...

Oh Snick, your post made me feel the loss your surroundings make YOU feel lately.

I'm sure John wouldn't be disappointed by the plants or by your careful selection of items that will be better used by others.

I think of it as sharing him with others...what a great gift.

Katie W said...

I come from a family of house plant killers. My Mum has the greenest fingers I know when it comes to outside. Indoors she's just like me, we both kill house plants within months if not weeks.
I like the idea of either taking photos or just keeping small parts of things. I still have the rose my boyfriend gave me when he first turned up on my doorstep, it was becoming old and dusty after I dried it, so I just peeled off the petals and kept those safe.

A'Dell said...

Just an idea - You may want to consider keeping things that will store well long-term (like books) that the twins might want someday? I only mention it because I have some books that were my grandfather's and while I have no interest in military history either, I like having them on my bookshelf.

He died when I was very young but I like having something that once belonged to him, that he enjoyed and held in his hands, where I can easily see it.

Just a thought.

Gretchen said...

Can you get a nice fake bonsai and give it one of the names? :-) Seriously, it might be a nice remembrance of something important to him, without having to keep it alive. And it could become a focal point for other small tokens that have meaning for you.

Anonymous said...

As a lover of plants and gardening I can easily say - throw the dead plants away. But the bonsai trees are planted in shallow pots, right? How about picking the pot you like the most and keeping that around to put small things in? It might make you smile when you see it, instead of cringing every week as you do now.

Reese said...

That sounds like a good rule. Thinking of you.

Snickollet said...

Anon: I like the idea of keeping the pots for the bonsai. Honestly, one of the reasons I have not been able to throw the plants away is that they are in beautiful ceramic pots. Keeping the pots to put little things (not plants!) in is a nice thought.

Pictures are also a good idea, as is keeping some of the books packed up if I don't have room for them in the house.

You guys are all so smart. And helpful.

Angela said...

I completely agree with your logic and your last sentence. You know John would have wanted you to take care of yourself and the twins and you shouldn't have the added burden of guilt over plants, etc. That's great that you are letting go, please try not to be too hard on yourself, take care.

Unfortunately, I also have a black thumb and my poor plants are always suffering until my Mom who is amazing with plants visits and revives them or takes them to her home to recuperate and then returns to my home for further neglect, so sad...

Anonymous said...

I can never throw anything away. My dad died 19 years ago and I still have yet to clean out his bureau drawers. I moved it to the attic. When ever I need a painting shirt I go there. They still have a feel and smell of dad about them.
Why don't you see if his parents will keep a lot of his stuff like books boxed up in their attic?
My grandad died young and left a huge military and classical book collection. I love having his books and sharing his taste though he died many years before I was born.
You could see if his parents would take any plant survivors too. We KNOW they are plant killers but they might appreciate the offer.

baasheep said...

Oh this post hit home with me. My Mam was an avid gardner and I on the other hand couldn't have given a fig wheter we were overrun with weeds or had a perfectly trimmed lawn. Now shes gone and everytime I stare out at the garden it reminds me however much I try to dutifully maintain it, its lost that sense of someone loving it. I too watched the indoor plants wither and die. I've found that replanting cactuses in the pots (ceramic also) made me feel better. I can go for weeks without watering them and they still live!
Actually must water them now...

OTRgirl said...

I love all the ideas and suggestions. One follow up to the 'save the pots' idea:

When I go to beaches or on mountain hikes, I love to collect cool rocks, wood or shells. I put them in beautiful bowls and put them in places where I can pick them up and look at them. The pots might be great for collecting future mementos?

Of course, that may just feel like clutter. ;-)

I'm also a purger and I know the choices you're having to make would be very difficult for me to make as well.