After the harvest

Fall is my favorite season. I love the cool of the air. I love getting my sweaters back out. I love the way the mountains turn all patchworky as the leaves change color.

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I love that it’s my birthday and Patrick’s birthday and the time of year I got engaged in and the season we bought our first house in and the anniversary of our becoming a family.

But there is one thing I hate about fall. I hate the end of the harvest. I hate when the cold air turns my tomato plants all wilty and I have to pull them up and throw them away. All those beautiful green tomatoes. All that potential. Right in the garbage can because it’s past their season.

Today was that day. This is what’s left of my garden.

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This year I grew my most successful vegetable garden ever. I haven’t had to purchase a tomato or pepper since early July. I ate buttered squash for lunch every day for months. I grew and learned to cook with fresh rosemary.

I loved working my garden this spring. It was the first time since Patrick came into our family that I’d been able to do so. And Brian and I loved spring and the joy of reclaiming our yard and turning it into a little paradise.

It seemed I learned so many lessons as I worked in the garden each day. I saw the importance of persistance as I pulled tiny weeds before they got too big.  And daily repentance as I saw flowers flourish each time I’d clip out dead old growth. I saw Patrick flourish, too.

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He figured out that if he took his backpack with him, he could go further. And so, we threw it in a little wagon and he explored the yard and the street. He helped me plant seeds in the garden and especially loved helping to pull weeds.

In spring, it seemed like we had everything in control and all the world ahead of us.

Then summer was long and hot and hard.

And as fall came, things cooled off. We started to get some parts of our lives back in order. We’ve been working on fall cleaning.. getting our house in order. We’ve been working on getting Patrick settled back in school and planning to draft a new IEP for him. (Due next week.)

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And the time came to call it the end of the season for my garden.

After learning so many wonderful lessons in planting, I couldn’t help looking for other life lessons in clearing of the garden. I mean, it just seems to dismal to rip out and throw away the plants you’ve tended all year.

But, if that work weren’t done, there would be no room for future growth. In fact, the soil is made best when some of the things we’d consider garbage (compost for example) are put to better use.

And this is perhaps the lesson I needed most today.

It’s been a hard week. A week and a half ago, I put Patrick down to bed.. Only to have him wake an hour later vomiting. Vomiting is not uncommon with Short Gut, but this time was awful. Dark green and strange smelling.. and he seemed so sick. And for the next several hours, I’d comfort him and put him back to sleep… only to have him wake up vomiting again.

Finally, I cuddled him up in the rocking recliner in his room so he wouldn’t be laying flat.. I put his belly to downdrain and I held him all night. He’d wake at least once an hour feeling sick again, but we made it through the night.

I kept him home from school the next day and called his doctor, who ordered some labwork to make sure Patrick was ok. We spent the day comforting him (he gradually seemed to feel better) and cleaning the house, washing laundry, and otherwise getting things in order in case things got worse.

Friday morning, he still wasn’t quite himself, but I’d decided it was just a stomach bug. Sadly, the labs didn’t agree. One of the blood cultures was positive, and so they called us into the hospital to start treatment.

He had an amazingly good night in the hospital and by morning, we’d all decided the positive culture was a false alarm. We made plans to go home.

Only Brian’s car was in the shop (his new engine has failed) and so I had to wait for him to get off work to take us home. And right before time to leave, I got a call saying that Patrick’s second set of cultures was positive and that Patrick did, indeed, have a line infection.

But, as Patrick’s GI was the attending, they decided to still let us go home and treat the infection from home.

The rest of that weekend was busy with antibiotics and labwork and trying to keep a sick boy feeling better. By Monday, things were finally seeming stable. Patrick even went to school. (His teacher was so pleased that he was allowed to come even with an infection.. Strange.)

We have about a week left of treatment and things are getting better. We still have middle of the night antibiotics and benadryl pretreatment making Patrick feel tired and crazy. Patrick’s belly is still very sick, dumping a liter and a half a day again and making me worry about new dilation and bacterial overgrowth. His button is tender for some reason, too. Two nights ago he could barely sleep because without it on, he’d throw up and with it on, he was in pain. (Finally figured out to how secure it to pull less and, with some pain meds, he could sleep.) But on top of all of that, there’s a weak spot in his line and soon it will HAVE to be repaired. Brian’s car will be gone at least one week more and so we’re juggling getting him to and from work. And I feel like I’m swimming upstream when it comes to getting anything done around the house.

I can feel the weight of all the things I wish we’d done this year, but didn’t do because health or work or something kept us away. And the weight of all the things I still should do, but just can’t get to.

And I’m beginning to feel like the fall chill is turning my leaves wilty, too.

Sometimes this all seems like more than I can do.  And yet, every morning, we get up and we keep going.

And so, if I choose to take one lesson from clearing my garden today, it’s this. Things can’t stay beautiful forever. We do not live in a Garden of Eden continually producing beautiful fruit and flowers. We live in a real world with weeds and frost and compost.

And sometimes the very best way to bring a good harvest is to just take out what is spent, what is dead, what is gone. To just do the ugly work and wait for a warmer season when you can start over again.

If we always held on to last season’s plants, hoping for potential and those last green tomatoes, the ground would never be able to be prepared for a new season.

I’ve saved all I can. My gardening gloves have holes worn in the fingertips as evidence of the work I’ve done. Perhaps a symbol, too, that I have given my all to this special needs parenting thing.

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So bring on the canned pumpkin pie and the frozen turkeys. I’ll bask in the harvest of Patrick’s astounding new language skills. And look forward to birthdays and holidays and leafpiles. And maybe plant a few bulbs so they can tell me when spring is here again.

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