Tiger Lilies

One of my favorite stories about my late grandmother, Nanny, involves her beloved Tiger Lilies. She lived in a decent sized home, with my grandpa, for as long as I’ve been alive. My mother lived there when she was a little girl, and it was a place of comfort and unconditional love for me. It was a place of endless homemade apple pies, special Minnie Mouse drinking glasses (for me, of course), and the best cast iron skillet hash browns I could ask for.

When I was in college my Nanny was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Luckily, it was very slow progressing and she lived for a very long time, considering. I graduated with my first degree in 2005 and she wanted to buy me something special. I asked for a bicycle. She had gotten to the point of not being able to drive and had forgotten to take care of the gift. I never could muster up the courage to tell her because I knew how upset she would be if she learned she never bought it for me. So when she asked, I went on about how much I loved riding it and how fun it was for my dog to jog along side me. I know I’ll answer for that one day…believe me, I’m prepared to defend that one.  Fast forward into completing my Master’s degree….

I came home from college one weekend and really wanted to visit my Nanny. I knew the disease had progressed some and I really wanted to take the time to talk with her before, well, she forgot who I was. My mother had mentioned, through numerous phone calls, that she had gotten a little worse but was okay. I fixed my usual glass of sweet tea and we took our seats on the back patio. Huge oak trees towered the house and provided a nice shaded area to watch the birds play in their bath. As we sat enjoying the mild weather, I waited for her usual set of questions. Like clockwork she asked about school and how everything was going. I was especially excited for this question because I had been working really hard on a specific research project. I knew that telling her about it would make great conversation and excite her that I was doing so well. So I began…


A few minutes into my story she interrupted me and said, “Don’t you just love tiger lilies? They are so pretty.” It caught me off guard, but I actually took a moment to look over at them and did notice how beautiful they looked. I commented back that they were indeed pretty. A moment later I picked up my story again and started explaining the ways I was gathering my data. Again, a few minutes later she interrupted me and said, “I love them so much. Your Pa (my grandpa) would dig them all up if he could. No telling what they would look like, then.” I guess my mother saw the look of confusion on my face because she politely covered her mouth with her hand and giggled. I couldn’t help but giggle along. I agreed with my Nanny on her tiger lily comment and made a joke about what my Pa would plant there instead. A minute later I tried to get back to my story and she cut me off again…she said, “Don’t you just love how they cover up the ugly parts of the house? That bottom concrete part always looks so bad on people’s houses.” At this point I had given up and joined my mother in a full belly laugh.  I realized I wasn’t going to finish my story and that my Nanny wanted to talk about her flowers, instead. I couldn’t blame her. I politely followed suit and spent the next two hours talking about and enjoying her beautiful flower beds and bird bath.

Later I learned that the Alzheimer’s wouldn’t let her mind focus on content any longer than a few minutes at a time. She was trying to listen to me, but every few minutes she would forget what I had been talking about. In order to talk about something that was less confusing to her she changed the subject. And since she had always put so much time and love into feeding the birds and growing her favorite flowers she chose to talk about those, instead. At first I felt like a jerk for confusing her. But the more I thought about it the more her interruptions started to make sense.

That was years ago. It’s still one of my favorite memories of her. But since I’ve married, become a mother and a better Christian I find that her interruptions have immense meaning to me. You see, life is busy. Life is fast. We spend so much time trying to hurry to the next planned event or appointment. We hurry our kids through daily tasks, often losing our tempers, and become impatient with other drivers for actually driving the speed limit. We spend twice as long as we should in the grocery store but then become irritated that we have to wait 5 minutes in the checkout line. We argue with a spouse about the route they take to get somewhere because we think it may take us 5 minutes longer, that way. Like it matters that dadgum much. Heaven forbid we have to spend 5 extra minutes in their presence. We hurry along and try to hurry everyone else along with us that we no longer realize we are doing it. It’s then I hear her interrupting me. It’s then I hear her stopping me mid-story to look at something beautiful. To admire something lovely. It’s then I hear her telling me that I could hide all that ugly with just a few tiger lilies.

Why do we do that? Why do we become so busy with hurrying that we think others should also move at OUR speed? Especially children.  I want you to think about the people in your life that are busy telling their research stories. And then I want you to think about areas in your life when you become too busy telling your own research story. I’m about to give you permission to do something really big…….I encourage you to interrupt those people! Stop them numerous times mid-story if you have to. Now, I’m not asking you to walk around telling people to shut-up. But if you have a friend that is brain-fried from being busy and in a hurry…..give them a single flower with a note about slowing down to smell it, have them meet you in the park, have them meet you in the garden section of  a local Lowe’s or Home Depot, make a friend-date to a local butterfly garden, send them a hanging bird feeder to admire from a window.  Do something to stop them mid-story and allow them to admire something that doesn’t ask them to hurry or allow itself to be hurried by you.  You don’t have to give a big explanation for why. Once they realize they have been able to just breathe for a moment they will understand.

Secondly, I encourage you to interrupt yourself. You know those moments when the thought crosses your mind, “this is where all those moms recommended I get in the floor and play with my child instead of get the dirty dishes out of the sink…” yeah, leave the dishes in the sink. Choosing, in that moment, to play with your child is admiring the lilies. Even if it’s just for a few minutes before you jump up to do the dishes anyway. When it seems as if you catch every red light on the way to work, after leaving the house 10 minutes late, choose to find the lilies at each light.  And for Heaven’s sake, plant some of those dadgum tiger lilies somewhere in your life.  They really do cover up the ugly parts.


Your Mediocre Mom

One thought on “Tiger Lilies”

  1. Thanks so much, just what I needed while getting Daddy ready for dr. I’d been praying for strength, kindness & compassion. It is already with me me, because I have Daddy with me.

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