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Births and deaths.   It seems the older I get the more these things mark the passages of my life.  The graduations and weddings come in clusters and I’m at an ebb for those.  Births and deaths on the other hand seem constant, a little here a little there but always something to count on in the course of a year.  This last week there were, of course, several of these that touched my life briefly.  Two, however, make a personal impact.

Final dress rehearsal for Man of LaMancha 1988.(David built a beautiful staircase that raised and lowered)

Final dress rehearsal for Man of LaMancha 1988.(David built a beautiful staircase that raised and lowered)

David Groska was the tech director for the theater department when I was in high school.  He was barely older than us students and we loved him for that, his talent, and his sense of humor.  He also had an explosive temper, which we found amusing as well.  In retrospect I don’t think I would have appreciated being stapled to the set either.

He dated one of my classmates and they married shortly after.  Not because they had to, but because they were meant to be together.  So why wait?   Teresa is now his widow and grateful for every moment they had together.

It wasn’t easy for them.  They started out young and poor.  Their eldest son had CP and some mobility issues.  Their second added all the complications of a sibling to a child with special needs.  Familiar as I am with this dynamic I can say Teresa and David handled it brilliantly.

The boys enjoyed being outdoors with their Dad.  They built forts and camped out and hunted.  Even though those boys are well on their way to being independent productive adults they’ll never stop missing their Dad.

David had been fighting with cancer for several years.  Teresa and the boys were by his side every step of the way.  The disease finally caught up with him.  He’s free of pain and we are all left with memories.

My sister Andrea with her new grand baby.

My sister Andrea with her new grand baby.

On the other side of things my nephew Zac and his partner Darcy had their new baby on Friday: Emmaline Rae McMahon.  This is their third, and the first girl.  Adian is older, the High School boyfriend’s son.  He’s such a proud big brother – as long as he doesn’t have to share his room with the babies.  Babies is plural because Charles is just a year and a half old.  He’s not quite sure what to make of the new baby, but we know he’ll be great too.

Andrea, my sister, is glowing.  She’s been driving back and forth from her house in Northern Minnesota to the kids in Mankato in crazy weather and nasty traffic conditions.  We placed bets on whether she’d make it to Thanksgiving dinner.  In my household the money was on her sitting down to eat and the call coming in.  Finally the wait is over.

Karina texted me, “The pic of Andrea and Emmaline makes me want to have a baby for you.”   Me too, but I told her not to rush on my account.  I’ve been ready to be a Grandma for years, I can wait a few more.  My “little” sister’s been a Grandma for 4 years now.  Owen got to go meet his cousin over the weekend and he was enchanted.  Orion and I will probably hold out until the family gets together for the holidays.  You may get another post about Emmaline yet….

The world turns in circles: wins and losses, plusses and minuses, births and deaths and the turn of the seasons.  It’s hard to find gratitude with some of those turns, and much easier with others.  I keep looking for it in small ways even when I can’t find it in the larger more obvious places.

Here’s hoping your life changes this week are slightly distant (it’s easier that it’s neither my husband nor my grandchild) or at least not quite so dramatic as life and death.


Between the late season and my asthma I haven’t spent a lot of time in the garden this year.   I was on Blog Talk Radio the other day talking about magic in the garden.  I mentioned one of the beds I have is an ancestor garden.  Given that it’s Memorial Day Monday and that I’ve been trying to get the annuals in (between thunder showers) that seemed to be a good topic for today’s blog.

Heather doesn't grow well here, and the lavender doesn't winter well so my Irish heritage gets a pot this year.

Heather doesn’t grow well here, and the lavender doesn’t winter well so my Irish heritage gets a pot this year.

My ancestor garden is the one along side the driveway, next to the entry we most frequently use.  That way I see it all the time, winter and summer.  Winter gardens are a real challenge up here, and my ancestor bed doesn’t make it, but just knowing it’s there under the snow is a reminder that my ancestors may no longer be with me, but that they are still there.

My ancestors are a mish-mash.  I have represented ancestors of blood, ancestors of heart, and ancestors of spirit.  My best friend from college is an ancestor of heart.  He died 16 years ago and I still miss him almost every day. You’ve seen my bulbs, the tulips and hyacinths.  (The trails are fading under the lavender.)  He was a big fan of the spring flower shows.  The bulbs I started there were from a spring planter he’d gifted to me the year before he died.  My hope in the spring is also a hope that he’s still watching out for me.  I usually manage to get a fall mum in for him as well.

viola's (the nursery was out of pansy's)

viola’s (the nursery was out of pansy’s)

My grandmother’s were both gardeners.  My maternal grandmother grew sweet peas, but I’ve never gotten them to go.  She also grew pansy’s and petunias.  This year I put in viola’s for her.  Those old-fashioned wild flowers are all very much representative of her country farm wife ways.  My other grandmother had a flair for the exotic.  She’d plant cotton bringing the seeds back from a trip south.  Or she’d plant silver dollars for good fortune.  There’s a hybrid daisy that thrives in that garden for her.  The colors are bright and cheerful and I’ve never found another in the seed catalogues quite like it.  Maybe I’ll post a photo when it blooms.

dusty miller sometimes winters over, but this is a new plant.

dusty miller sometimes winters over, but this is a new plant.

The kid’s paternal grandmother loved dusty miller.  It was her favorite, I asked.  I don’t particularly care for the plant, but when I put it in honoring her, it even winters over.  I’ve come to appreciate its strength, resilience and alien simplicity.  Now when I see it grow I smile and think of her kindness and patience.

For ancestors of the spirit you may see some Russian sage coming up between the chocolate mint.  The sage is for one of my teachers.  Russian sage is perennial and he had a fondness for Occidental cultures.  The mint is a nod to the cooks, family and otherwise, who have influenced me along the way.  I got it out of a friend’s garden in Detroit so there is an extra nod to her along the way.

Chocolate mint and Russian sage

Chocolate mint and Russian sage

The cycle of the garden is a microcosm of the cycle of life.  Honoring my ancestors in this way I spend time tending their memories throughout the growing season and even in the winter.  I pick and choose my annuals, filling in the blanks and sometime adding a new memorial for a season or as a permanent addition.  These people are my foundation.  They continue to nurture me in my journey as I nurture my garden.   Blessed Be.

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