Do Not Count the Withered Ones
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Callie kept her heart in the front yard, as people often do. Here, her father's oak, solid and stoic and unchanging. There, her sister's rhododendron, which bloomed with pale pink flowers. One root from each plant grew into her heart, which nourished everything in the yard.
She stepped over the delicate vines of her college roommate's ivy to get to her mother's willow tree. The leaves were dry and brown, and the once supple branches were brittle and fragile. Callie turned on the soaker hose that wound around the base of the tree, knowing it wouldn't help, but wanting to do something, anything, to save her relationship with her mother. As water dripped from the hose, Callie went to the one bough that still bore green leaves on its branches, but even here she spotted leaves with a slight tinge of yellow at the edges.
Callie drove across town to the nursing home. Mom kept her heart in the communal garden, which was a depressing place even under the best of circumstances. The hearts of the elderly were rife with dying plants--friends who passed away, relatives who never came to visit. Her mother's patch was the worst. Her plants were mostly dead, except for Callie's lace leaf maple. The tiny tree had twisted branches and delicate leaves, but it was hardier than it looked. It had outlasted all the other plants, staying green all through her mother's autumn years.
The leaves were not green today. They were yellow, like a caution light, a warning of red leaves to come. Mom, who usually spent all day in the gardens, was in her room.
"You want to go outside, Mom?" Callie opened the blinds to let some sunlight in. The table by the window was cluttered with dead plants--not heartplants but ordinary houseplants.
Mom came over, wary, and peered at Callie's face. "You look familiar."
Yesterday she'd recognized Callie, but that was increasingly rare. "I'm Callie, Mom. Your daughter."
Mom nodded and put on her jacket. "You look a little like my daughter. I have two girls, but they never come to visit. No one ever comes to visit."