Orchards and Rules of Happiness

September 20, 2017

I didn’t know why Robert screamed as we approached rows of Ginger Gold trees.  The orchard seemed to breathe calm contentment with just a slight touch of nostalgia. There were people, but not too many. They were separated from us by row upon row of branches overburdened by cornucopia of ripe apples.   It was a beautiful day.  But Robert screamed.  Not constantly but frequently and without a reason we could understand.  Moreover, he kept slapping? patting? stroking? his cheeks in quick, small movements of his palms in clear sign of distress.  It was a beautiful day, but my heart sunk.

I didn’t expect that. Orchards were places where Robert seemed to be in harmony with the rest of his family and his surroundings. The old pictures in family albums attest to that. So why was he screaming? Was he not feeling well?  Did he miss his sister which just four days before went back to France?  Did he want to do something else? Robert doesn’t explain himself but without explanation his behavior is immediately placed in the rigid context of his diagnosis and read as “regression”.

I am not sure what I felt.  I was scared, confused, and hurt.  But we continue picking apples.  Jan and I were able to engage Robert in gathering fruit even though his screams continued. After our bags were full, it would be a good time to leave, but then we needed blueberries too.  So we went for blueberries.  They were not easy to gather, as the ripe ones were interspersed with green ones, not ready for picking.  But Robert’s screams ceased.  Just like that.  I don’t know why.  He continued taking ripe blueberries from little twigs, leaving the green blueberries untouched.

I wasn’t ready to celebrate yet,  but a ray of cautious hope was not lost on me and we dared to walk to another part of the orchard and relieve some of the branches of the  ripe peaches and almost ripe nectarines. We rode on a straw filled wagon back to the blueberry field and managed to pick a pint of raspberries too.  We ended our orchard excursion by buying apple cider donuts and, Robert’s favorite, honey sticks. As we returned to our car, we all seemed to feel the calm happiness that emanated from the orchard.

Two weeks later, we went to the same orchard again. We went, because Robert wanted to.  We gave him a choice, “Movie or apple picking?”   He chose apples.



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