The Garden by Christine Swiderski



Walking through the garden, a smile crossed my heart. The combination of love and loss filled me. The rose bushes started this flow. I pause to reflect. The day I planted them Tom standing ready to help. Pleased with himself for giving me the perfect Anniversary gift.

Laughing to myself remembering the look on his face when I was pattering on about Petunias and Peonies. After a few years of marriage, he would contribute to the conversation. Each year he would contribute to the garden, in the form of a gift. Carnations for my birthday. Wisteria on hold at Christmas. Never failing to put me in a spin chattering away about the perfect spot. Changing my mind several times until the day of planting. Tom would be standing ready to help. I never needed help I always liked getting my hands dirty.

Tom was better at listening than I was. He loved sports. I tried to learn what a tight end was, or a running back. I would find excuses to get up during the game. Putter around in the kitchen to make him a snack or bring him a beer. Each birthday or anniversary I would do my best to pick the right sports paraphernalia hoping he would enjoy them as much as I enjoy my plants. Even though he was gracious pretending surprised euphoria, I knew it was not the same. Until one Anniversary I gave him two tickets to the Superbowl.

The second ticket was for Jessup our son. This topped everything he ever gave me he said. I was thrilled I finally found the right gift.

I decided to sit by the Koi Pond, my heart started to tighten in my chest. After 5 years you would think the grief would subside. It has to some extent. For some reason today it came back with the same intensity as when I received the news.

Tom and Jessup throughout the day would send me texts with pictures of their great adventure. Finally, it was game time, the last photo someone else took of the two of them jumping up and down during the game. It was a great shot, I could see the players on the field and see Tom and Jessup with their arms in the air celebrating. Their team had won the Superbowl.

Early the next morning I was having coffee in my garden. There was a knock on the garden gate. A patrolman asked if I was Anna Timkie. I said I was. He asked permission to enter. I gave it. He sat next to me, my first thought was he could not be much older than Jessup.
He took my hand and said, Anna, I need to tell you something.

He told me while everyone was celebrating the win, Tom and Jessup were still in the stands, Tom in his exuberance gave Jessup a slap on the back. It caught Jessup off guard. Jessup was in midair in a celebration jump. The slap on the back propelled Jessup over 2 rows of seats. Jessup's head hit a seat. Paramedics were at his side in minutes. There was nothing they could do. Tom was beside himself with grief, screaming he was sorry. They took Tom to the hospital for observation. While at the hospital Tom made arrangements to have Jessup's body sent home. Tom checked himself out of the hospital. He went to the subway. Onlookers said he purposefully stepped in front of the train.

Two bodies were sent home. I had them cremated. The following spring I had their remains placed under the Koi Pond. I wanted to sit reflecting, remembering the love and life we shared. The Koi with their bright colors and eagerness for life in moments like this helps the grief subside. My hopes of grandchildren will never be realized. My love for Tom has not diminished just changed. Now this love is a wisp of a memory which reminds me of all the good life can give.

I have moved on just recently I remarried. His name is Jim. Retired police officer. Jim came into my life during the time of preparations, helping me with the logistics of bringing Tom and Jessup home. Jim knows I still grieve, I need moments of reflection. Life is about putting things in order. Gaining perspective He says if this is the only baggage I carry he will carry it with me. He does. He gives me my quiet moments. Then he brings the pot of coffee refills my cup. Sits down next to me and we talk about what is the next item to be added to the garden.