September 1, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Acknowledging the reality of fantasy

Taped onto the side of our microwave for many months this year was a colorful double cartoon from a calendar.

My daughter, Diane, gave me this. It shows a confident woman in gardening overalls, a sun hat and garden clogs.

With a hoe in one hand, she carries a basket of greenery with the other. Like her, the dog nearby is serenely smiling. They walk on a stone path surrounded by green grass, a blue sky, multicolored flowers, a variety of trees, a gazebo and bird houses. It is an ideal yard.

Below this cartoon is written “The Fantasy.”

Under it is another cartoon showing a frowning woman looking at limp plants in a small plot circled by stones. The dog lifts his hind leg by a straggly tree. The woman is wearing a white T-shirt, blue Bermuda shorts and sneakers.

In one hand is a small hand-hoe; in the other, an emaciated plant. Her hair is pulled into two wilting ponytails. A swing is on one side of the barren yard, and there is a chaise lounge on the other side. A privacy fence shields the sad scene.

Below this cartoon is written “The Reality.”

The artist’s name is Renee. (My daughter no longer has the rest of the old calendar with the proper credits.)

I once prided myself on plush floral growth in our former bungalow’s yard, and later on our current property. I even started seedlings under Gro-Lux lights during cold weather so they’d be ready for planting when warm days settled in. A non-Catholic friend once said he hoped in his “next life” to be “reincarnated” as flowers under my care.

He would not say that now because my yard is a shadow of what it once was. This summer, my fantasy was replaced by reality—even though my intentions were excellent.

My plans to do better withered because they depended too much on my lessened energy level as well as how much time I could spare on outdoor work. Nor did I expect such brutally hot weather.

Falling short of expectations is discouraging, not only in gardening, but also for other goals. For instance, how often have I promised God and myself to become as active in parish work as I was when my daughters were younger? How often have I disappointed others because of my limitations? How often have I even missed just plain fun with friends for the same reason?

I now acquiesce to reality while still appreciating what I can do. I would much rather “accent the positive and eliminate the negative” (as an old song suggests).

It is time to “let go and let God.” It is also time to hire help for my reality yard.

Perhaps my fantasies can still come true.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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