Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Growing Good Feelings

When my husband got sick, he wanted so much to continue to work and help with our expenses.  I tried to create activities to help him continue to be a contributing member of our family, even though he was unable to work outside our home.  Gardening was one of our solutions.  

The first spring after he got sick, he dug up a strip in our backyard.  I had read several books on small space gardening.  The Postage Stamp Garden Book, How to Grow All the Food You Can Eat in Very Little Space By Intensive Gardening Techniques by Duane Newcomb was the book I found most useful in the beginning.  We do not have a large backyard.  We measured out a long strip 4 feet wide.  Each year we added another strip or space.  Each year we tried different kinds of vegetables.  We have grown tomatoes, peppers, okra, cabbage, potatoes, onions, lettuce, turnips, beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, and egg plants.  We have planted pumpkins several years, but they take up a lot of space for so little output. I have lots of mint and lemon balm in small strip.  I have a little space by my back door for my kitchen herb garden.

Due to the Alzheimer's disease, my husband is unable to make plans and execute them.  I plan what needs to be done and what and where we are going to plant.  I also do most of the planting.  I used to have him help more with the planting, but he is having more difficulty with that, so I give him a little area and don't worry about the results, then I finish at another time.  My husband gives me a lot of suggestions on what he would like to plant.  For several years, pumpkins were his favorite, but now he wants to try corn.

My husband is a good weeder.  He loves to go out and pull weeds.   He can spend long periods of time outside weeding.  I think this is something he can do without little input from us.  There have been weeding incidents, though.  My chocolate mint and four-o'clocks have been sacrificed occasionally.  I have come home to find my entire front flower bed plant-free, weeds, flowers and herbs.  I have to remind myself, before I react, no big deal.  Plants can be replanted.  The harm I can cause by showing my disappointment can cause more harm than good.  What's the point?  He won't be able to remember the difference next time, but he will often remember my reactions.

Gardening gives my husband something to look forward to all winter.  He hates being inside without anything productive to do during the cold months.  I often see him thumbing through gardening books during the winter.  Whenever I find a gardening book at a garage sale I get it for him.  I want to keep that spark going as long as I can.

Since his disease continues to progress, he is not able to do the same tasks that he was unable to do when we first got started.  I have to continue to adjust the tasks.  He is much frailer now than he was, so digging and turning over the soil is out.  A friend is letting us use his rototiller for those tasks.  

Gardening has been a great outlet for me.  At first, I felt if I had 1 more job to do I would explode and this gardening thing was adding a lot of work for me.  I think a lot of that resentment was for the disease and the way it was affecting my life. (Yes, this disease affects his life more than mine, and I am not proud of this, but I do have moments of "poor me".)  Of course, now that he has in home health care, I can leave lists of tasks to be accomplished during the day and know that he will have the added support he needs.  We often go outside and walk through the strips and admire our handiwork in the evenings and weekends.  Of course, there is the added bonus of fresh vegetables.  Good years we even sell some of the surplus.  Now, I love that my husband and I can create such beauty in our life in spite of the ugly disease we are dealing with.

Do you have solutions that you have use to help your loved one feel useful and good about them self?  Please share.

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