It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I am pulling a shirt over Janneke’s head. Rachel is already in her wheelchair and watching us intently. She’s typically more cooperative with getting dressed, offering me a gentle grin after stretching her long legs. Feisty Janneke treats the process like a wrestling match, complete with her fist jabs, wriggling legs and giggles over the movement.
Janneke has been coughing more, creating some concern with COVID-19 on the mind, but I suspect it’s related to allergies and excess saliva from teething. Rachel has been sleeping more through the day and night, but I prefer that over the days and nights she can’t sleep because of her pain. Thankfully, Rachel seems content today, as I finish up with Janneke.
Once I’ve placed Janneke in her wheelchair, she and Rachel are led to the picture window in their room that overlooks our backyard. The early morning sunshine seems to be calling the girls outside. I quickly grab my coffee, so we can accept the invitation.
I catch Ralph’s eye, and he shakes his head at my determination to cling to my coffee while one-handedly manipulating the wheelchairs down the lift and into the backyard, first Janneke and then Rachel. He knows well enough not to comment until after the coffee. He grabs his coffee and joins us.
From weeds to wonder
In past years, we would have been less excited to take the wheelchairs out to the back. The backyard, with its grass-weed blend, housed the occasional trampoline or inflatable pool for Emily and Sophia in their early years. It was always a challenge to take Rachel and Janneke off the deck and into the yard. However, in the past few weeks, we’ve been channeling our COVID-19 frustrations into soil, mulch and pollinator-friendly plants. Now our backyard includes an accessible butterfly garden, complete with a crushed gravel path! Unprecedented times, indeed.
A landscaper friend created the path and layout of the yard. Different plants were split from neighbours’ perennials, gifted from friends and rescued from the clearance shelf at Walmart. Several accessories were purchased at the local dollar store, and others, such as the aluminum pots and colander, retired from Oma Pot’s kitchen to hosting flowers in the new garden.
As Rachel and Janneke get older, it’s been more challenging to figure out their activities each day. We long for informal interaction with friends for the girls, but we know it’s hard for their peers to have a one-sided conversation. Taking everyone out for camping trips or outings is no longer safe or doable. By the end of last summer, I was painfully aware of how much stress I was holding within over how to make the days meaningful here.
This morning, as I take in my coffee and watch the girls in our new garden, I’m reminded of how important it is to slow down and see the small things. I’m teaching myself to be thankful for the wind moving through the leaves. The garden may not be Algonquin, but there’s beauty to be found. I observe Rachel’s eyes taking in the flowers and then shifting up towards the direction of a what sounds like a cardinal. I laugh as Janneke sticks out her hand to catch the spray of water from the hose, as Ralph waters the garden. These are good and rich moments. I will miss them if I am not careful.
If you are in St. Catharines some sunny day, stop in and sit awhile. We’re hoping the butterflies do too.