On March 18, 2007, I was with my second son’s family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. By 8:30 in the morning, I was pulling weeds in their backyard. My two year old grandson ran in the warm spring sun. The warmth penetrated my shoulders as I hunched over the flower beds. Inside the house, the two year old’s brother had been home for twenty hours. Since his early birth January 24, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit had been his home. My daughter-in-law was expecting the first visit of the Home Health Nurse.
As I pulled the vibrantly green weeds, I relished the irony of the weeds being in their flower beds. These beds had been professionally cleaned, sprayed, topped with black paper, and mulched the previous fall because my son and his wife knew that their lives would not admit tending shrubs and flowers with two small children. As I pulled the weeds in Baton Rouge, I was thinking of our lot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where we had spent three thousand dollars for tree removal following Hurricane Katrina. During the eighteen months since Katrina, I had been admiring whatever green thing had poked its head up in those past eighteen months. I had even contemplated adopting the platitude that says, “Weeds are just plants that we don’t want.” I wanted most anything green in my yard.
The nurse arrived, and I took the two year old for a long walk. As we rounded the corner returning to the house, my daughter-in-law was in the driveway with her cell phone. The nurse’s car was still in the drive. Was the baby to return to the hospital?
She handed me the phone. My husband tearfully told me that our fourth child Scot at twenty six had overdosed and had been found in his friend’s FEMA trailer.
From that moment on, I forgot the healing of the sun, the healing of grandchildren. I dwelt on the power of weeds.
My Scot was not a weedy soul. My Scot had the soul of an African Violet. He needed a certain pot, special soil, temperate sun and much care. My words of tender love did not shield him. My words of tough love did not toughen him. I, the veteran English teacher, did not have words enough to encourage him to push up through the dirt of life. I wish him still the soul of a weed.