Yard Rules

Diagnosis Dementia ~ Prognosis Hope

This too shall pass…

…like in about 12 seconds.

Today was a Monday.  On a normal Monday, if there really is such a “normalcy” to any of my days anymore, I would use my morning to return emails, answer texts, and complete any leftover paperwork for my clients from the previous week.  Easy enough.  The afternoon would be spent on the phone, setting appointments, following up with clients, team members, and doing various other work-related tasks.

Today wasn’t one of those Mondays.  I am 3 weeks behind on my own laundry.  To survive the laundry drought, I threw some of my underwear in with a load of my husband’s farm clothes on Friday.  That bought me time…but today was critical.  I have a tall hamper, but the dirty clothes were piled about 3 feet higher than the top of the hamper!  Fortunately, my hamper sits in a corner so the overflow leans against three walls while it waits.  I had no choice but to get my entire wardrobe washed, dried, folded, and re-put-away where it goes before the weeks kicks off Tuesday morning.

Granted, I should be able to do laundry while multi-tasking at my desk and between phone calls.  Add to that daunting list:  Mow the lawn.  Rain is coming.  The forecast calls for rain Tuesday – Sunday.

Thank God I don’t have the 2 acres I left behind when my husband and I lived in our own home!  Mom’s yard is much smaller.  The kicker is that Mom’s yard comes with a whole new set of expectations.  In the two-acre yard all I needed was time and a good pair of ear plugs.  In Mom’s yard, things “precede” mowing.  Things like, cleaning up after the dogs (I figure rain is coming!  Won’t that clean up after the dogs?)  Sticks need picked up and placed in yard waste containers. (I drive a 42” ZTR mower.  The owner’s manual clearly states: “…the blades can handle small sticks, bark, and twigs…”.  I trust the owner’s manual).  It used to take me 2 and a half hours to mow 2 full acres of long grass.  In town at Mom’s house I should be able to knock the top off the grass (honestly, we just mowed it last Friday!!!) in about 45 minutes. 

Plenty of time left to finish laundry, go to the store, let my brother’s dog out and still fix supper before I need to make the rest of my evening phone calls for work.

The morning went well.  I worked in my bedroom.  Limited space, but no interruptions!  The afternoon was off to a good start.  Laundry was going.  I was making great progress on the phones and the computer.  By about 3:30 I was ready to jump on the mower and check that big item off my list before the rain starts tomorrow.

My mistake was sitting down on a kitchen chair to change into my mowing shoes.  The innocent question from mom,  “Are you going outside?”

My mindless answer, “I thought I’d jump on the mower.”

An alarming reply, “Did we pick up the sticks?”

Trying to avoid the delay in my day, “Of course we did, Mom.  We picked them up Friday before we mowed then.  Three days ago.”  (She has Dementia for Pete’s sake! Will she remember if we actually picked them up or not?)

It was too late.  Mom was already putting her coat on.  “I’ll need to pick up after the dogs before you mow out back.”

I tied my left shoe thinking, no problem, I’ll start out front.

Now you have to get a visual on this yard.  We live in town – which poses a whole other set of rules about curb mowing.  If you mow along the curb, the grass must be blown back onto the yard, NOT into the street!  If there is accidently a blade or two of grass in the street after mowing, Mom is out there with her broom sweeping it up and adding it to the yard waste!  The back yard is actually the “side” of the house.  That part is partially surrounded by a chain link fence for the dogs.  The best way to start the mowing process is to “open the yard up”—you know, mow around the whole outside edges so you can easily spin the ZTR mower around at the end of each pass.

In preparation, I walked to the side yard and opened the gate so I could easily drive into the fenced in area when I got around to it.  Mom was right on my heels.  No sooner had I opened it, Mom was closing it.

“The dogs will get out.”

“But Mom, the dogs won’t be out while I am mowing.”

“Are you going to mow out here first?”

I’m thinking, it all depends on where you decide to pick up sticks first, Mom!

I answer honestly. “I can mow on either side first, it won’t matter.”

“Then why do you need the gate open now?”

“I don’t really need it open, I was just getting ready.”

“Then we don’t need it open yet.”  Mom closed the gate.

I stopped and attempted to move the downspouts out of the mower’s way on the other side of the house.  I didn’t realize they have rules too.  These rules say there’s a screw fastening them to the down spout!  Who knew?  Mom gave me a lesson on those as I tried not to faint because the birds were darting back and forth between the nearby fir trees.  (To this day I am not a fan of feathers, birds, or anything that flies – especially if they are close in proximity to my personal space!)

Finally!  I made it to the mower, inserted my whimpy ear plugs (haven’t found my good ones yet since our move), and off I went.  I opened up the whole yard and only got a few loose blades of grass in the street!  Not bad.  I was making good progress.  I decided to do the parking first, so all the lines went the same way.  (That’s a whole other set of rules for another day!) 

I finished on one side of the driveway and started down the west side only to realize the nice neighbor lady was out digging around the light pole at the corner of our yards.  I figured she was preparing for flowers or something and didn’t want to get her in harm’s way of my mower.  I mowed the rest of the parking, then went back thinking the lady would be gone.  Nope.  She was still digging away. I circled back and mowed the whole other side of the house.  Yep.  She was still there.  Digging and digging, pulling grass, working away.

Holy moly.  I’m trying to be polite.  I’m trying to follow the rules.  I’m attempting to be mindful of my time because my list is still really long for this Monday.

I turned off the blades, opened the gate to the fenced in area (again) and opened up that part of the yard.  Lo and behold, as I’m coming up to the front corner where the lady is working away, I look closer and realize, that’s NOT the neighbor lady!  That’s my mom!  Sitting on the curb.  Digging away at…I have no idea what!  She’s just digging right where I need to mow!!!


I started mowing back and forth in the big area, but out of the corner of my eye I see Mom and she’s watching me very closely.  Pretty soon she’s leaning over the fence.  As I passed by, she motioned me over.

“Did you mow the front yard going east and west?”

I’m thinking, I went all four directions when I outlined it and opened it up!  I didn’t answer.

“I think you mowed going north and south out front but back here you’re going east and west.”

My reply, “No one can even see both yards at the same time anyway.  Besides this one is behind a chain linked fence!”

No guilt implied but, my dear mother says, “I prefer my yard to all be mowed in the same direction. Everyone else in the neighborhood does it that way and I am not going to be the only yard out of order!”

I switched directions and mowed over the already mowed part to make the appearance of it all going the same way, even though you cannot see both yard simultaneously unless you are hovering in drone right above our house!!!

Mom went back to digging.  All I had left to mow was that little section where the light pole is, right where Mom is working.  She hufted herself up off the ground, hung her cane on a tree limb, and began picking up sticks and twigs, all small enough for my fancy ZTR blades to handle without problem.  I waited.  She picked up baby sized sticks, medium sticks, and a few stray acorns.  When Mom shuffled across the yard to the waste containers, I took advantage and mowed a section, being sure to go north and south.  Had I not had to go all one direction I’d have had it all done before she got back.

An hour and a half later I parked the mower in the garage.  Now I am behind!  I have laundry to switch. My nephew isn’t feeling well and he could use a little Aunt Judy loving.  I still have a grocery store run before dinner, and a dog to let out across town.  Oh yes.  And a cane to retrieve because Mom has long forgotten that she hung her cane on the tree near the light pole where she was digging.

Time passes.  I manage to get everything accomplished, for the most part.  I’m on the last load of wash, I’m waiting on my farm hand hubby to show his face so I can throw the brats on the grill. All seems in order and mostly calm.  Mom ate leftovers early because she wants her food to settle before bedtime.  No worries.  That works for me.

The grill is on, the groceries are put away, the table is set, Mom has finished her meal, and my hubby walks in from his last task of the day.  Perfect!  I fly into action to complete a sit-down meal for the two of us.

And suddenly there is a rush of urgent activity.  Mom is putting on her coat.  She’s in a total panic.  Holy moly!

“Yard waste day pick up is tomorrow!” Mom announces with urgency.

I processed out loud, “I thought trash day was Friday.”

“This is yard waste day!”

Really?  Will this be every Tuesday forever?  Is this something I need to know?

“We have to get the yard picked up!  They come get all the yard waste in the morning, first thing!”

I have a starving husband, a hot meal, and to honest, I’m ready to sit down for awhile too.  I tried to be logical. “You just cleaned up the yard this afternoon.  Just go put out the yard waste containers that are ready.  We can start on a new one tomorrow for next week.”

“I didn’t pick up after the dogs today,” Mom noted.

I’ve already mowed over the dog piles in the back yard.  “Rain is coming.  That will take care of the dogs!”

Mom’s not buying it.  “Rain is coming? Tomorrow? I have to get out there and get the rest of the yard picked up!”  She waited, but no one volunteered to go out and help.  With a heavy sigh, Mom headed out to accomplish her yard waste goal.

Time passed.  The dogs came in and went out a few times.  We ate dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and finished the 6th load of wash.  Time still passed.  Mom slammed a garage door a couple times going in and out.  The last time I checked, she was combing the yard wearing her head lamp (I will never forgive my Aunt Nancy for giving Mom a head lamp!).  Mom is going back and forth across the fenced in area.  East to west, by the way.  She’s going against my mowing stripes! 

Back and forth she goes, peering into the beam of light on her head searching for remnants of dog poo to add to the yard waste containers in preparation for pick up in the morning.

This too shall pass…

…wishfully in about twelve seconds!

 “Father God, at the end of this day I thank you that my mom has a strong sense for a job well done.  I am grateful for down time and hot meals.  I am not looking forward to more rain, dear Father, but I am thankful I don’t have to mow again until it stops raining!  I would pray for patience, but I know better!  So instead I will pray for presence of mind, for magical moments, for laughter, for tidbits of deep joy.”


Published by Judith Kay Writes

Judith Kay has spent her life observing, listening, questioning, accepting, challenging, and wrestling with life’s toughest questions. Her writings reveal the answers, enmeshed in the tangled, sometimes messy analogies from everyday living. Judith Kay’s rural Iowa upbringing planted deep roots in core family values, a solid work ethic, and a humble spirit. These traits are personified in characters with deep convictions and heartfelt struggles. No stranger herself to disappointment, struggles, and grief, JK presents characters that wield their way into your heart, inviting you to seek your own answers along their journeys! Moving fluently between works of fiction and non-fiction, life-changing implications draw you into Judith Kay’s stories—sometimes challenging, other times affirming. Her quick wit and keen sense of authenticity keep you engaged. Her characters stay with you long after the story has ended. Her stories speak into your own life and resurface in your personal experiences.

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