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The Changing Of The Gardener

April 22, 2015

By Mary Beth Wighton
I come from a line of proud Scottish gardeners. I am told that my Great Grandfather was an estate gardener at Ardclach, Nainshire Scotland in 1902. As far back as my memories take me, I can alwaysremember my parents working the soil producing beautiful flowers and vegetables.

My father always tried to grow roses with varied success. He liked to present my Mom with a rose showing his love for her. How sweet is that?

My parents have not put in a garden for the last few years. Although, they did have a few plants on their balcony. Just enough to get their hands dirty; and have something to show-off and talk about. When they downsized, I had the good fortune to obtain my fathers long gardening shovel. I don't know how old it is, but it was his favourite. It has moved a lot of earth in its time!

This year, our garden was on the late side of being put in. Dawn asked if I was going to do it this year. I responded with an “of course” because I am not able to imagine a springtime without one. As she prodded me gently to get moving on it, I realized that things have changed. This year, I found it overwhelming. I needed help with turning the ground, buying the plants, seeding, etc.

As I contemplated this, I knew the time had come for the handing off of the shovel to the next generation – Brianna. If you speak to a carer of someone with Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD), they will tell you that it is common for the person to eventually be unable to plant and take care of the garden. It is, as they say, “the new norm.”

If you think about it, there are many steps to gardening. It can be overwhelming, without the person realizing the issue. It is not always easy to articulate. For someone to live well with dementia, a helping hand can go along way in being successful. With Brianna's help, we were able to turn the earth, pick out our plants, plant, fertilize and we are now waiting impatiently for them to start producing.

Brianna has picked this seasons first batch of rhubarb and has made her first pot of stewed rhubarb. It has already been given to Grandma and Grandpa Wighton for a treat. It made them proud. We have begun making plans on how in the Fall, we will use our tomatoes and make jars of salsa. We have never done this before, so it will be an adventure.

And my Dad's long shovel – has been ceremoniously been given to Brianna. It is my hope that she too will teach her children about flowers and gardens. When she is older, she will reflect on the days we spent in the garden, laughing and enjoying our time together.

As is the changing of the guard, the changing of the gardener has begun. I know Brianna will always help me in making sure my hands get a little dirty each Spring. Together, we will enjoy the fruits of our labour and bury dementia for as long as we can.