The bougainvillea at the entrance of mom’s little walled garden has started to bloom again. And how my heart has danced inside my soul upon seeing it! You see, this bougainvillea is a sacred kind of a thing to me… For years, whenever we used to go visit my parents down in South Florida, I would take my mother’s hand and run down to the garden with her... to the bougainvillea at the entrance of her garden for a special moment. Under the tree's beautiful, copious canopy we would stand together, arm in arm, laughing, hugging... until we took possession of the moment. Through the lenses of my camera I kept those moments alive, and intact. I have dozens of these photographs of mom and I posing under her bougainvillea that I had taken throughout the years since I left home.
This bougainvillea represented so much to me. Continuity, the force of life, a perpetual, recurrent miracle of life, and an enduring living thing that, in the most secreted part of my soul, it also represented her... my precious mother. It meant true love, and it meant comfort and childhood memories and home, and I silently worshiped it, always wishing to see it standing till the end of days, just like I expected her to be.
A week after Florida Hurricane Irma, I went to check on my parents. With mom now living at her assisted living facility, their little house is a house of ghosts. Shadows dwell there perennially. My father is a lost soul without her. My heart is lost. When I went to find refuge under our precious bougainvillea, I wept. The hurricane had destroyed it almost to the ground. Shrubs were stripped of leaves, and the large broken branches looked like sharp knives against the open sky.
I felt a prang of sadness when I saw it. This beautiful flowering tree, now battered and destroyed by harsh weather and strong winds, just as what Alzheimer has done in the body and mind of my precious mother. How I'd wanted it then to be able to bring it back to life and beauty, to preserve it, to preserve our mother intact, her body and mind alive, keep our love forever alive; to keep her forever with me, in me, close to that secret, sacred place of the soul where nothing can touch us there.
It was the most glorious thing seeing that same bougainvillea coming back to life again this time. The tree sending out new epicormic shoots and sprouts along the top and at the tips of branches. I think I even detected the first clump of flowers in it. A miracle of Nature indeed! Oh, if only I could see the same happening in my mother's life...
And thus, I am home again… home at the little white cottage in the woods and this marvelous, chilly weather and a place of orange leaves. The land has dressed in reds, and yellows and auburns outfits… its skirts swaying in the half-light of autumn. I am at peace. My heart is a tornado. I want to sing and I weep. Trying times. Times to cry and be remembered and treasured in our memories, times to forget the bad and never bring it about. That’s how my little heart is feeling like these days. A mixture of sorrow and a mixture of joy. Autumn comes to me with a softer, darker song on its lips. I am that bird who, upon hearing it, remembers he too must learn to sing it, before he can be free.