A Flowery Tribute

Passiflora edulis. Native to Brazil but widely cultivated throughout the tropics.

Passiflora edulis. Native to Brazil but widely cultivated throughout the tropics.

 

When one gets close to ninety-five years of age, things can start to go wrong.

My mother, Georgette Hewson, landed in the hospital January 1st, for the first time in fifty-five years, just a few weeks before her birthday. She does not live on the Mediterranean coast on a diet of olives, fish, pomegranates and nuts, but rather has been a resident of Massachusetts for most of her life, where she enjoys a tenderloin steak most Saturday nights and some form of sweet dessert daily. Until her trip to Santa Fe, NM, for Christmas, she was preparing all her own tasty and healthy meals, but with ample butter when necessary.

Drymonia macrantha. Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

Drymonia macrantha. Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

My mother decided early last year it was probably time to sell her car after she had a minor accident, her fault, but she didn’t like losing her wheels and independence even one bit, and groused about it well into the fall of 2015. She only started using a cane about the same time, and has never had an injury due to a fall. She wanted her cane painted with bright, colorful flowers, an assignment I accomplished for her. Her love of flowers is well known, and her avocation ever since I can remember has been perennial plantings to produce flowers spring through fall.

So what has been my Mom’s secret to successful aging? A combination of factors motivate her: vanity about her clothing and appearance which made her very stylish; physical activity daily as she moved around her building, garden, library, and favorite stores; friends with whom to garden, share a cocktail and chat, and interest in news, sports, and celebrities’ lives. She follows Red Sox baseball, the Boston Patriots, and certain pro golfers set her heart practically racing. All these factors have contributed to her well-being and astonishing mental acuity.

Amaryllidaceae: Euchrosia bicolor. Native to Ecuador and Peru; growing in Finca Cantaros

Amaryllidaceae: Euchrosia bicolor. Native to Ecuador and Peru; growing in Finca Cantaros.. Thanks to David Janus, Wilson Botanical Garden, for ID.

Mom could not rely on a daily basis on my sister and me, since we both moved far from home after college and could only visit once or twice annually, though more often in recent years. We stayed close by phone—though my sister was always better about this tender duty than I.

That physical remove from her daughters required Mom to generate an iron will to master her environment after my Dad died in 1987. For twenty-nine years she has been on her own, but always with a number of friends, neighbors, and relatives not too far away, to give and receive essential support. She often acted as chauffeur until last year to help friends get to medical and hair appointments. Sadly, though, several close friends and family members have died in just the last few months and years.

Georgette, or GiGi to her grandchildren, in Massachusetts, October, 2015

Georgette, or GiGi to her grandchildren, in Massachusetts, October, 2015

 

Commelina erecta in the Commelinaceae Family. Seven species in Costa Rica. Seen by lake at Finca Cantaros.

Commelina erecta in the Commelinaceae Family. Seven species in Costa Rica. Seen by lake at Finca Cantaros.

Big changes now: Georgette is now a resident of Santa Fe, living with my sister Sue and brother-in-law, Joe. I spent time with them there after Mom became ill, and we made the decision together as a family that it is time for her to relax and release a tad bit her tenacious grip on independence. Her room looks out to the desert, with the Sangre de Christo Mountains in the distance, but for most months of the year there is, close to the house, a colorful garden, filled with flowers and desert birds. It is a wonderful place to rest.

NOTE TO MOM:

The tropical flowers in the photographs here are likely new to you, Mom, and I hope they bring you bouquets of good cheer as you continue to recuperate from your medical challenges. These flowers come with love and tremendous admiration for your optimism and motivation to get back to enjoying your beautiful life.

Bromeliad at Finca Cantaros

Bromeliad at Finca Cantaros

 

Firecracker vine: Pyrostegia venusta. Originally from Brazil and Paraguay but now widely grown throughout the tropics.

Firecracker vine: Pyrostegia venusta. Originally from Brazil and Paraguay but now widely grown throughout the tropics. 

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