I’ve planted a garden. In pots and rectangular planters. We picked out seed packets together at Home Depot a few weeks ago, choosing simply by picture or name. I chose forget-me-nots like choosing a racehorse at the track. I just loved the name. Sweet William and Teddy Bear Sunflowers also made the cut. The herb of the season will be cilantro and just for fun, some catnip. I’ve decorated the planters with small disco balls from a New Year’s champagne display. Funky versions of a classic gazing ball.
This morning, on my day off, I was outside on the deck watering these little pots of soil and seed. Cloudy and cool, I heard a guttural yell. I looked out to the street and saw a man I didn’t know fall on the sidewalk against a rough brick retaining wall. I saw him seizing and shaking. I ran inside to get the phone. My pink pitcher of water had spilled over the side of our deck as threw it down in a panic. I heard the water hit the ground one floor below as I dialed 911.
I ran down the stairs in my bare feet, down the asphalt driveway. “I don’t know him but he’s having a seizure! Hurry!” I ran across the street and saw his eyes, bulging and vacant. He was vomiting and foaming at the mouth and hitting his head in convulsions on the sidewalk. I was still on the phone with 911 and was touching his crew cut hair, trying to comfort him in some way. But really I was comforting myself as I said “It’s okay honey, it’s okay,” over and over as I would comfort Miriam or Hal. He stopped for a minute and went back into a second seizure and I was able to grab a folded newspaper from the curb to place under his bloodied head. The police arrived. And then the ambulance. And then I held back my tears as the situation slowly got under control.
His name was Jamie. He lived two houses down, across the street, with his girlfriend Colleen. He has epilepsy and yes, this happens. Yes, he took his medicine. No, he’d rather not go to the hospital. He was confused and then lucent. And then confused again. His hand was bleeding and he was unaware of the blood and vomit on the side of his face. The police were gentle with him. Jamie quietly, almost embarrassed, said “thank you’ to me and a little tear squeaked out of my eye.
I stood and watched as they checked him and talked to him until he was 100% coherent. One of the uniformed guys, the one with the kindest face, came over to me as the medics did their thing. Jamie was resting on the retaining wall and I just wanted to put my arm around him.
The kind faced man saw I was shaken and simply said, “I’m Michael. I live a few houses down on your side of the street.”
“I thought you looked familiar, ” I smiled back.
“I’m the deputy fire captain in town for 12 years.” He paused. “My wife just died 3 months ago.”
I reached out immediately and touched his shoulder and said how sorry I am to hear that. I was so touched to hear him say this to me. A stranger. I could see his sadness behind his bushy moustache. “How are you doing? It’s only three months? That’s so recent. Are you keeping yourself busy with work? How are you handling it?”
I knew he wanted to talk. And I wanted to talk to him. I gave him some unsolicited advice of doing whatever feels right, taking care of yourself as best you can, staying busy or doing nothing. Blah, blah, blah.
I want to bring Michael a plant or something for his garden, since plants are what brought us all together. Me and my attempt at gardening created this situation. Jamie could’ve hurt his head even worse, undiscovered on our quiet, dead end street. I never would’ve heard him yell from inside our house. I most likely wouldn’t have met Michael. A few houses down but a world away. I think this attempt at a garden will grow into something bigger than I planned. More seeds, more pots and planters, more sunshine and water. I’m ready for more.