Disabled Gardening


When I was writing my book three years ago, I could still make it out to the garden by myself. I could walk outside with my cane, carrying a five-gallon bucket which I used as a prop for getting myself down on the ground. Leaning against it with both hands, I would lower myself down and then crawl along the edge of the garden, dragging my cane and the bucket, filling it with weeds and dead-heads as I went along. And when I decided to get up off the ground, I would lean against the bucket to push myself up.

But that was three years ago. Since then, as the CMT has taken more of my leg muscles, I’ve had to adjust this gardening routine. I’m no longer able to walk outside by myself. Even walking down the smooth sidewalk with my cane, I have fallen. Oh, I can walk around inside my house, no problem. I suppose my body knows this old house pretty well, with all of its creaky floors and handy door frames that provide the perfect places for me to grab to steady myself. But outside, well, I never know when a slight angle of the ground will surprise my weak knees.

Five or six years ago, my husband built a ramp outside my back door, discreetly hugging the edge of our back porch, creating a quaint pathway for me behind the lilies and daisies growing right up to it. I can certainly walk down the ramp by myself, and there are a few garden areas up against the house that I can get to by crawling from there. But for the majority of my flowers, which grow on either side of the split-rail fence out by the road, (sigh) they’ll just have to be patient. We’ll have to wait until my hubby gets home from work, when he can walk me out to them.

“Where are we headed today?” he asks, as we walk out into the sun. He’s carrying my five-gallon bucket, with my trowel and garden scissors inside it.
“I want to attack this area over by the dogwood.” I point with my cane in that direction as I cling to his steady arm. When we get there, standing behind me, he puts both arms under mine and lowers me down to my knees.

“Thirty minutes?” he asks.
“Yup.” He heads back into the house, promising to come check on me in half an hour. At that point, I may have a job for him. Or two. “Can you get that thistle back behind those day-lilies? I couldn’t reach it. And I think we should spray the honeysuckle bush again.” He’s a good sport. Then he leaves me for 30 more minutes to bask in the glory of my sweaty brow and the sicky-sweet aroma from the petunias.

As I’m digging out a hefty dandelion, I’m humming a song that we have been rehearsing with the choir — a classic old hymn written by C. Austin Miles back in 1913. “I come to the garden alone…while the dew is still on the roses…” Well, I can’t come to the garden alone anymore. And certainly not early in the morning. But the last verse of the song is perfectly sing-able for me:

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling
But He bids me go through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling
And He walks with me, and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I will stay out here for as long as I can, sometimes until the sun has already set, when my husband comes out one final time to lift me back to my feet and walk me back inside. By then my muddy knees will be a little shaky and I’ll be leaning heavy on his arm. But I’ll make him stop halfway to the door, even though we are both swatting mosquitoes now, “Let me turn around to see the garden from here.”–the view that neighbors see from the street or from the sidewalk, where they might have just watched a husband helping his wife back to her feet.

Further down the fence I spy the salvia, just about to bloom. It is probably being crowded by wood sorrel and chickweed. But I’ll be back, Lord willing, tomorrow evening.

Suzanne Rood is the author of A LIMP OF FAITH, her story of daily life with CMT, a hereditary neuropathy, and the constant battle of trusting God; available on Amazon, Books-A-Million, and the Vermont Book Shop.

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