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The garden was always my domain. I injured my spine, and now I am partially paralysed from the neck down. I can point at stuff, and say where plants need to be positioned for me to be able to see them from where I sit by the backdoor.
Nothing's ever quite right for me, these days. I'm cranky and miserable, and I've been this way for almost four years. It's been four years since I was able to walk as far as our back gate. Mike takes care of the garden now, and it's looking pretty good. He's learning the names of the plants and keeping most of them alive. A couple of years ago, he planted our onions in the hanging baskets. I would never have done that, but I must accept that I'm not the gardener anymore.
Things changed very suddenly. For a while, it seemed that I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but when I needed surgery to relieve some of the symptoms, it turned out that this was whiplash; an old injury, decades old. I remembered the accident immediately, back in 1985. The car was written off entirely, but we all walked away, uninjured. We were right outside the hospital when a coach ran into our car. We were so lucky; we didn't think that we should have walked through the doors, and gotten ourselves checked out.
I warn everyone about whiplash these days. My effort is probably wasted because everyone is much more informed than they would have been in '85. There is so little I can do for my family now. I am always surprised at how accepting they are of the changes in me. They understand that my insistent warnings are just my way of trying to be 'mother'.
So here I sit, like the spirit of Christmas Past, pointing at stuff with my walking sticks, telling my husband where the plants should be and calling out advice on every aspect of Health & Safety. I feel like a very old lady, although most of the older ladies I know seem to lead much more active lives than I do.
Our home is in a row of old coal-miners' terraces. From where I sit, I can see into many of the other gardens along the street. Not that I'm nosey. Parts of the gardens are out of sight, and most of the time, I can only hear when the neighbours are outside.
Sound covers a lot of distance in this part of the valley. On a beautiful day, like today, you hear the hum of traffic flowing alongside the river below. On the far side of the valley, trains clatter over the bridges in the evenings. Late into the night I will be listening to the judder of tyres hitting cattle grids on the road up to the farms on the hill above.
I hear my neighbour re-aligning a chair to face the setting sun as he returns home from work. Two doors down, Corrine sits on her doorstep watching her bed linen come to life in the breeze. She works and minds her grandchildren sometimes. For a moment, she is taking a break and enjoying a cigarette. I think a lot about working and purpose, and the days when I used to be busy.
My mind is called home into our own garden by the ringing of chimes jostled in the wind. Mike is adjusting the water pump in the pond. For a little while, I hadn't been aware of him. He was pulling up weeds on the other side of the garden the last time I'd noticed he was there, with me in the garden. Now, he is tuning the flow by the sound of the water trickling over the pebbles.
Our garden was never quite like this in my busier, bossier days. There is so much peace in just being here, right now. I listen to the soft shuffling of pebbles in the pond and waiting for the chimes to sing-along when the next breeze passes by.