Mike Fitzgerald/Columnist

She is in the autumn of her years, yet spring is her favorite time.

That’s when her yellow tulips push their way through the barely thawed ground after a cold and barren Midwest winter. Soon her iris and violets and wild pansies will follow, along with her favorites, bright red roses that bloom in fragrance and beauty.                  

Her outdoor bouquet is serenaded by the birds that return to her two filled feeders. The wings of the hummingbirds provide a soft buzz of serenity, the golden finches a splash of color to the garden masterpiece.

The backdrop behind her condo and garden is a small lake for all seasons, but it especially comes alive in the spring, when the ice melts and the geese and ducks return.

A snow-white egret, sometimes a pair, will make a guest appearance in the spring. Their flight around the lake stops her in awe and wonder.

Bass and bluegill, and the little head of a turtle or two, break the glassy surface to slurp bugs next to her short metal pier. Bullfrogs and cicadas will soon add their songs to the symphony.

“This is where I belong,” says the 77-year-old caretaker, her blue eyes shining like the azure sky above. “This is what God has given me.”

The inside of her condo is filled with comfort and warmth. Photos and paintings and words of wisdom line the walls. Her kitchen, where the best meatloaf ever created is born, is a great place to sit and talk and look out the sparkling new windows into the entryway.

A statue of the Blessed Mother is the greeter by the front gate. Sometimes a sparrow will land on her head. Wind chimes signal a breeze with their sweet songs.

Everyone is always welcome at her home. It says so right on the door. Family, friends, neighbors. Old or young, rich or poor. The tipsy or the troubled, the lonely or the lost. Those who just want to say hello.

Everyone. Always.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner can be reheated, a TV show turned off, a book set down, if someone needs her kindness and compassion.

Her husband of 48 years died in the winter of 2002. He was both a lovable and cantankerous Irishman.

“He could be a rascal,” she says. “But I miss him very much.”

A second love of her life, neighbor and dear friend George, died suddenly last fall after suffering a massive stroke.

He was a wonderful guy in every way, bringing his little dog, Harry, to her doorstep each morning, along with the local newspaper and a song or funny limerick.

“Hello Harry,” she would proclaim as he skittered around the shiny kitchen tile and she quickly gathered his box of dog treats.

“And, hello, Mr. George,” she would then say to the grinning, sharply dressed gentleman, always topped his head with a bright white cap. “I have a cup of coffee and a donut for you.”

It broke her heart when he died, but she overcame the sorrow with her faith and courage and the memories of their time together.

Her two sons adore her. Always have. And she loves them with all of her huge heart.

The youngest never left the family hometown of Chicago, a popular and successful mortgage broker. He is always stopping by to help her in any way he can.

The oldest son is her adventurer, a journalist who has moved around the country from coast to coast and beyond.

“I’ve visited him in the most beautiful places,” she says. “Three times in Hawaii.”

She loves when he catches a fish at her lake and proudly holds it up for her. Time stands still. Then he softly slips the shimmering largemouth back into the water.

“Why don’t you clean it and eat it?” she always asks.

“I’ll catch it again when it gets bigger,” he always replies.

They never miss a sunset on her lake when he’s there, when the sky and water blend into a spectacular reddish-orange and a feeling of true peace signals the end of another day.

She is in the autumn of her years, yet spring is her favorite time.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

You’re the greatest.

Mike Fitzgerald is a freelance writer living in Moab. You can e-mail him at revfitz22@aol.com.