• ,

Silver Threads: Landscaping brings seniors to their knees

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

I’ve grown so tired of looking at our little backyard this month that I’ve considered bricking or tiling it over, which is unlikely to happen given my husband’s cost-cutting proclivities. (I almost wrote “penny-pinching ways” here, but changed my mind on the chance he might read this particular column.)

January and February have been hard on the flowerbeds and lawns in our neighborhood, but most of them are mending. Ours are still in an awful mess, partially due to the days of rain that have made it difficult to visit a garden center to pick up multiple bags of mulch and soil. And since I no longer drive, I can’t just dash out for supplies when the showers slacken.

The other hang-up is a beloved grandson, assigned the job of cutting our grass when his mother decided he needed a job. He’s a willing guy, but he’s busy in high school, fulfilling the requirements of his creative writing teacher after classes (he’s up for two poetry awards), and paying midweek and alternate weekend visits to his dad, who lives across town.

His older brother pledged to raise the borders of a flowerbed in the backyard, then got a chance to work at an upscale restaurant for the spring and summer. The edging stones we bought for the garden task are still in our driveway.

And we have four cousins from Texas coming for Jazz Fest.  I’d love for the yard to look nice, but it won’t.

All this makes me realize that one of the reasons seniors move out of independent living is inability to cope with the landscape. If they’ve been doing their own gardening, hauling bags of supplies no longer is possible; stooping over to plant and weed is painful; life in the ancestral home is tough. (Not many of us live in ancestral homes — ours is just 20 years old, but you get my point.)

A good friend of mine — circa high school — and her husband recently left their longtime home in Plano, Texas, for a new house 40 miles away. It’s as big as the old one — has space needed for visiting grandchildren — but the grounds are a fraction of the size. They’d lived for years with a yard terracing down to a big and picturesque creek. They’ll miss it, but can’t help sighing with relief after the change. He’d done most of the groundskeeping and is no longer up to it.

Of course, if you can afford it you can get full-service care for your surroundings. The folks who live next door to us part-time — they also have a place up north — have three or four workers coming over every week, never allowing the lawn to appear to need even an inch cut in height, trimming trees and shrubs whether they require it or not. But most of us depend on lesser services — or on grandchildren who need the money; their allowances don’t allow them to live in the style to which they’d like to become accustomed.

The last time I got on my knees to put edging around our flowerbeds, I couldn’t get to my feet after I’d spent about 20 minutes down. Crawling to the shallow steps leading to the back porch and resting a bit, I finally made it to the house door, down the hall and to the closet where I’d stored a heating pad.

My back was fine again in a couple of days, but that’s when the idea about making a brick patio of the backyard had its genesis.

It’s either that or move into a retirement condo with no private real estate around it.

 

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]