Saturday, September 17, 2011
Grass. No, not that kind.
My grandmother was a stocky woman of Germanic and French heritage. Her determination in the face of all obstacles was a thing of legend in our family. Elsie would put her shoulder and her intellect to any task, and with dogged determination, accomplish it. She retired to Martha’s Vineyard after a career as a book-keeper, mother and widow, at the age of 72. She designed and g.c.’d the addition to her little cottage. She delved into town building ordinances and library texts books as well as relying on some guidance from my cousin, an architect and my husband, a builder. Her husband died young, leaving her with her three daughters to manage; two were out of high school, one was in grade school. My grandfather, Charlie Beauchamp, was the love of her life. After his death, until her death three months shy of her 93rd birthday, Elsie never dated another man. She spent more of her life as a widow than a wife. She said there was no point in dating. No one could measure up to her husband. In a quirky sort of nod to Elsie, she and Charlie blessed their three daughters with a middle name that was, in some manner, a derivative of Elsie’s name. Thereafter, my parents respected this tradition when they named my sister Deborah Elizabeth, and me, Dawn Elise. For thirty-five years, my husband has called me, with affection, humor and some respect, “Little Else.” The first time she heard it, she was confused by what he meant. He quickly gave her an example of the behavior he had observed in her that he saw mirrored in me. “Do you remember the time you cut your lawn – admittedly a 20ft x 20ft patch – on your hands and knees, using scissors because the man didn’t come to mow. What were you then, 86?” Another time, Elsie, was in her 80’s, and we went up in a glider together. She didn’t let anything stop her from enjoying and living life the way she chose. She was instantly gratified that he would honor me in that way.
So, today, I found Elsie sitting on my left shoulder. I have been stuck home by limited mobility for some time. However, the three large grass plants I gave my husband for his birthday on 2 September were looking pretty unhappy about not being in the ground. I knew I couldn’t dig a hole since I can’t lift a shovel. But wait, I do have a trowel. And a foam pad. I used my new porcelain and titanium hips to lower myself to a kneeling position. From there, I started scraping, digging, and fighting the earth and stones while all the while picturing prison break movies and Escape from Alcatraz. After thirty minutes, I succeeded in digging two holes deep enough to accept 18” root balls. In went the grasses, the soil was packed, the mulch was spread, the fertilizer introduced into water and the plants were soaked. Elsie was right there, the whole time. About that third plant? She suggested I come back tomorrow.