Stormy Weather

A lady at the garage told me there was a tornado warning in our area this morning, a rare thing in Ithaca.  I couldn’t confirm it, although we are expecting thunderstorms this afternoon.  It reminded me of another July day several years ago when a summer storm took down about a third of the huge, beautiful maple tree that graces our side yard, breaking our hearts, but thankfully, not our cars or our necks.

The same storm had blown over a favorite flowering tree in a neighbor’s farmyard.  She and her husband had lived on their property their entire married life, raising cows, pigs, children, and grandchildren.  Now Jean* was the full-time caregiver for Bob,* whose stroke left him in bed and unable to care for himself.

Whenever I visited, Jean lamented the loss of her tree, talking about how strong it had been, how tall, how sturdy.  She just couldn’t believe it was gone, uprooted by the summer wind.  Her grief for the tree continued; she mentioned it every time I called, and seemed unable to get over it.

Jean was a doting wife and meticulous care partner for Bob, and it was clear she was as madly in love with him as the day she met and married him.  Bob was often confused, but always liked to flirt with female visitors, and in his occasional confusion would tell me that he’d been out cutting wood that day, or tending to the pigs.  In his mind he was as strong and as busy as ever. 

One day I watched Bob lying in his bed and Jean hovering over him, adjusting his blankets and teasing him. 

It was in that moment that I realized I was looking at the Great Tree on the farm, the one that had been felled, and for whom Jean was grieving in the deepest, most hidden part of her heart.

*All names and identifying details in this story have been changed to protect privacy.  Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker who works with Elders and their Care Partners, and is an Eden at Home Educator.

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