Lorraine and Leah by the peach tree

Leah and me under the peach tree a few years ago.

When I went to Home Depot several years back and bought the peach tree that is now planted in my front yard, I was told that it would take many years before that tree would produce edible peaches. I didn’t care. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow, and I know that eventually, there will be lots of fruit to enjoy. The thought of homemade peach cobbler and peach ice cream made with the peaches I picked off my tree makes me smile. And so I don’t mind waiting.

In the spring, there are some pretty blooms on that tree. I have several pictures of myself and my service dog sitting underneath it on a sunny day, the pink flowers dancing overhead. The flowers don’t last too long, and they give way to budding leaves that grow and last all summer. One of my favorite activities on warm summer evenings is to water that tree. There is something so satisfying in knowing that I helped to get the tree what it needed so that it can grow bigger and produce the fruit that it is supposed to produce.

When I looked out the window this morning, I noticed that all the leaves on the tree are gone for the season. We have had some recent nights with some high winds and the leaves just couldn’t hang on. But the tree is still there. And it is much bigger than it used to be. Even when the coming months get cold and snow buries that tree to the point I can hardly see it, the tree will remain, waiting for spring when it can blossom again.

The last few months have been some of the hardest of my life. In my almost 32 years of hiring and managing caregivers, I have never had a season like this one. Some people I’ve hired have gotten sick to the point that they cannot work for me. Others have gotten better jobs with benefits that I just can’t compete with. Some have had school and family issues take up significant amounts of their time. And some have worked for a few weeks and decided that being a caregiver is simply not what they want to be doing right now.

All of it means that I have had to step outside of my comfort zone and do things independently that I never thought I could do. It also means that I have spent a whole lot of time lately alone in my house and in some of that time I have been scared for my safety.

One thing that adds to the issue is that the agency that was supposed to start in the middle of September is still squabbling over paperwork with the company that does payroll in terms of Medicaid funds paying for my caregivers. Without going into all the boring details, both the agency and the payroll company have strict policies that they follow, and those policies are in conflict. While they try to work it all out, I am the one who is living without caregiver support, and because of my balance and spasm issues, I have trouble getting myself into bed. I usually sleep in my wheelchair these days. It’s not the most comfortable thing I have ever done, but I make it work because it is necessary.

Several times per day I remind myself to take the day focusing on one thing at a time, dealing only with what is right in front of me. Otherwise, I would get totally and utterly overwhelmed. I don’t get everything done that I want to these days, but the basics are covered and my service dog is getting everything she needs, including being showered with love and affection, like always. Our bond is what is keeping me grounded.

Just like the peach tree that grows in my front yard, I am on a journey. The wind and the rain are never pleasant, but they help me to grow and hang on. This is all part of the process, and I am aware this is just a bad season. There was a quote I saw on Facebook recently that said: “If a flower dies in a garden, we look at changing the environment, we don’t blame the flower.”

I recently hired two new caregivers and I have three more interviews scheduled for this coming week. I am in the process of rebuilding my caregiver team. I will get to where I want to be. Because I know that when there are several people working for me who understand what I am about, my life just blossoms.

Spring will come again.

And eventually, my life will be sweet.