Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Holding On


This is a baby staghorn fern. I came across it recently while doing some therapeutic weeding — therapeutic for me, not so much for the weeds. I was actually surprised to see it because the closest mature staghorn is in the across-the-street neighbor’s backyard.

Plus, it was clinging to stone. In the wild, these tropical epiphyte ferns use their roots to grab tightly onto the bark of a tree while its fronds take in the needed moisture and nutrients. This little guy, though, was holding onto the rough, hard surface of a paver used as a retaining wall for a raised bed.

The more I considered its journey from a spore drifting on wind currents to its determination to hold onto something — anything — solid, the more I realized that this was the best way to illustrate my absence for the past few months.

Without going into detail, the bulk of 2020 saw Joe, myself, and his family protecting ourselves from COVID while also caring for the health of his father. Dad was diagnosed in May with malignant melanoma.

In a normal world, life is a rollercoaster. COVID, though, seemed to stifle and slow many of the ups while adding speed and dangerous curves to the downs. By the end of 2020 and into 2021, Dad needed round-the-clock care. On February 3, he passed away as a result of his weakened state, which itself was the result of two surgeries and general anesthesia that seemed to exacerbate his Alzheimer’s.

Since then, Joe and I have worked at catching up on chores long neglected: AC maintenance, plumbing issues, tree removal and shrub pruning, and that therapeutic weeding.

Through it all, though, we’ve reflected on Dad. He was many things to so many people.  He was a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, uncle and friend, and coach, referee, umpire, and mentor. To me, he was my father-in-law, a kind, decent, honest, and gentle man who lived life to its fullest. He’s also the man who instilled these same values in Joe, my husband and partner.

I admit that while some days have felt almost normal, other days have been, well, a daze. It was on one such day that I looked up and spotted an orchid blooming way up high on the trunk of a sabal palm, one that I had tied to the tree before I knew anything about how to do that.

At the time, I was told to wait for the flower spike to finish and to just tie it. Climbing a ladder, I slapped the clump of roots — no additional sphagnum moss, no coco-fiber lining to keep things together, no nothing — and sloppily wrapped green floral tape around the orchid and palm trunk, hoping for the best.

It has never bloomed, not once,  since I tied it up there. Some years, it looked as if it was barely alive.

This year, though . . . this year it’s flowering, its roots firmly attached to the trunk. It gave me a reason to get the ladder and climb up to get a closer photo of this miracle on a tree trunk, a reminder that we’re all holding on and we’re all going to be okay.

12 thoughts on “Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Holding On

  1. Such a positive posting! Love your poignant words and vivid images of nature and rebirth. Here’s to optimism in this chilling world. (And – it helps that Biden won.)

  2. I’m so very sorry to hear about the loss of Joe’s father, Kevin. I can’t really wrap my mind around 500,000 American deaths, and when I think of worldwide loss it’s even more difficult to comprehend, but as you share about one special man who meant so much to his family, that’s when the tears flow. There is so much to say, except that words are entirely inadequate. except. I truly feel sadness for your loss.

    • Dear Debra. Thank you so much for your kind words, especially when you’ve had your share of worries throughout 2020. I have found myself throughout the past year crying at odd moments — a song on the radio or a commercial, and I found myself shedding tears for everyone and everything. I’ve avoided the news and dramatic movies — every so often, it spills out. I think of 500,000 and I put it in terms of 9/11. We’ve experienced more than 166 consecutive 9/11s or nearly 5 months worth. It’s heart-wrenching… and with Dad, so many decisions had to remade with Covid front and center. His hospital only allowed one visitor; his rehab allowed none. As his needs required more care, we looked at assisted living and memory care — and again, no visitors — and we couldn’t imagine how cruel that would seem to him, thinking he had been abandoned, and to Joe’s Mom, not being able to see her life partner. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel sadness for everyone… and I look forward to the day when we can hug — just hug deeply — without fear and without masks.

  3. I was thinking about you recently and wondering why you hadn’t posted anything as I used to enjoy your musical allusions. I’m very sorry to read about the reason for your absence. Your words are as inspirational as your father-law-was, and I wish you and your husband peace and time to reflect together.

    • Thank you so much, Jane. I believe that we’re all going to be okay… in time. As I’ve said repeatedly here and to friends, family, and neighbors… I can’t wait to hug people without fear and without masks. I think the whole world could use one big collective hug.

  4. Beautiful post and so poignant. The orchid is a sign for sure. Mr. El was a wonderful man and he would want you and Joe to be looking forward now,

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