Greg Gibson


Every Thursday morning a group of ladies meet in Bernice's sunroom and outdoor oasis to go over gardening tips, drink tea, and offer support as each one suffers with debilitating medical conditions. Phyllis and Bernice could be sisters, and banter as such; Phyllis in her 80's with Bernice not too far behind. They both can spit fire if you get them started, but mostly they are the nicest pair of ladies you could ever know. Ada, she is the sweet and soft spoken one who recently went through a nasty divorce when her MS got to a point her husband didn't want to deal with it anymore. Phyllis and Bernice have adopted her as an honorary member of their little club.

"Bernice, my plant is looking sicklier and sicklier every day. The fan leaves have turned yellow. More so from the bottom working its way up." Phyllis says before taking another sip of her tea.

"Has your plant started flowering yet?"

"Yes, three weeks ago. And I made sure the soil's PH was correct."

"I wouldn't be too concerned yet, Phyllis. Some of that is normal. You may want to cut back on the watering."

"I'll try that."

"Did I tell you that my daughter Kathryn came by this weekend to help me make my special cookies and brownies?" Bernice asks with a twinkle in her eye. "And we over did it on the potbutter and spent the whole day laughing so hard I literally peed my pants."

"I wish my children would lighten up over my cannabis use. I keep telling them it is a possible treatment. They don't know what it's like taking all these damn pills, and the cost. So far I have been able to cut my dependency on pharmaceuticals by a third. My daughter is insisting that if I continue down this path she will refuse to bring my granddaughter over even though I've assured her that I am growing and harvesting my plants here, and promised not do anything around her." Ada says as she looks down deep into her cup of tea for answers on what to do.

"I don't know why people keep carrying on like that about marijuana. I hardly notice a difference when I use it."

"You know Phyllis; you are starting to sound like a broken record. You insist it does nothing for you and yet ever since your son gave you those 'special' suckers for your 80th birthday a year ago, I have heard much less of your complaining about all your aches and pains. And do you want to know the best part? You are even more pleasant to be around these days." Bernice says as she pours everyone more tea.

"You hush." Phyllis retorts with a sign of dignity, and a hint of guilt.

"Miss, I'm worried about my yellowing leaves." Ada says with a smile trying to get in on the fun to lighten her mood.

Bernice is the seasoned one when it comes to growing, nurturing, harvesting, and developing new and fun ways to ingest the cannabis's flower. And the group adopted her motto: if they can use flowers like Chamomile, Dandelion, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Mint, etc., etc., etc. for medicinal purposes, then why not flowers like Purple Haze. She was also first in the group, and one of the first in Colorado, to receive her medical marijuana license back in the 90's; which she has framed on her wall as if it was a college diploma. She is also the head cheerleader when it comes to keeping spirits high. They all suffer with chronic pain and depression caused by a diverse list of ailments like arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS—with hopes that the list of ailments will continue to grow.

"I think since today is such a beautiful morning we should all get out in the garden; I have a plant that is ready to be harvested." Bernice says as she gets up from the patio table. "But before we get started, I want you to try one of my new muffin recipes."

"Did you get the potbutter recipe right this time? I would hate for all of us to get-to-laughing so hard we pee our pants." Phyllis yells into the house from the sunroom after a long moment of silence waiting on Bernice.

"It's better than those suckers you keep popping in your mouth and insisting they do nothing for you." Bernice counters as she enters the room with a tray of freshly baked muffins.

"Oh those smell so good," exclaims Ada.

"Enjoy! And yes I did get the potbutter recipe right this time. I still insist on doing things in moderation, ladies."

Bernice is the recipe guru. She very rarely smokes marijuana except in a bong late at night when the pain is keeping her up: in the water, she adds a slash of cognac for flare. She primarily ingests the medicinal properties of the marijuana flower by adding it to a boiling oil based agent, like butter or olive oil. She then strains off the boiled flowers and lets the oil rest until it is needed in her cooking. I think it is the combination of the marijuana and the fun she has gardening and cooking that keeps her so healthy. She suffers the most out of our group with pretty bad arthritis from wear and tear: two knee replacements, two hip replacements, one shoulder replacement, and fused vertebrae. Even the little ball joint in the thumb she's had replaced. And the pain she is in! There are moments were she is curled up on her bedding crying where all she wants to do is die. But she always seems to bounce right back with a good baked treat.

"You know Ada; I would not let your daughter get you down. I find most people that do not suffer like we do are the first ones to cast stones. It took Kathryn a while to come around."

"Yes Bernice, but you were fortunate. Kathryn came around after she started to suffer with chronic pain and depression herself."

"Do you mind if we talk about something else. This topic is depressing me on this sunny day amongst good friends." Phyllis interrupts with a mouthful of muffin. "Why do we need to continually defend ourselves? Society has stereotyped marijuana use as deviant. I say let us be deviant then."

"Ms. Phyllis here has gone philosophical on us." Ada chimes in as the ladies burst out laughing.

Ada, as the young one in the group at age fifty-seven, is on disability because of MS, and developing arthritis because of the way she walks now. She has refused to get her medical marijuana license for fear of negative repercussions from the federal government that might affect her disability benefits. She became a vegetarian, practices therapeutic yoga, and meditates. She works hard at being the poster child for healthy disabled. The medications she is taking have so many adverse side effects that she is exploring alternatives, realizing trying new strains of marijuana takes work and patience.

"You know, when I started this process there were no magic pills, and I still don't think there are. We used herbal medicines and ointment to treat what ailed us. I am not saying anyone should stop taking pharmaceuticals, I am just saying marijuana should be left as an option without the ridicule." Bernice leads on.

"Well all I know is if I have to be sick and take medicine, then I might as well have fun doing it."

"That-a-girl Ada. You keep that chin held up high. How about we get a move-on harvesting that plant while we suck up some vitamin D." Asks Phyllis as she gets up from the table and starts to collect gardening tools from a nearby bench for the project. "Do you want us to help you hang them for curing after?"

"That would be nice. The plants are producing well with the nice weather we have been having."

"Don't forget about your TLC." Phyllis concludes as she exits the sunroom out into the back yard.

Phyllis just turned 80 and won't stop. She's hunched over, frail, and uses a cane. Evidently she spent the last few years in a downward spiral as the broken body was the only thing left of decades of hard work; then the loneliness, depression and self-pity decided to settle in. Then one day her son said: hey mom, try this sucker. She ended up eating the whole thing and getting sick. The son then said: No, you're only supposed to take a couple licks at first. Ever since then she carries a sucker in her purse and has found her orneriness again with her new friends.

"Do you know the group I meet with in my mindful meditation at the Healing Arts Program at the hospital have discussed outside meditation areas. What if we do something like that in the garden?" Ada mentions to Bernice as they follow Phyllis into the garden.

"I think that is doable with us all chipping in. Perhaps under the shelter of the gazebo."

"What do you think about that Phyllis?" Ada asks as she grabs the baskets for harvest.

"I've tried meditation with some guy talking on a CD. After the first two minutes I am asleep and don't remember a word he said. I never turn down a time to nap. I'm in." She smiles as she begins to cut away at the stalks.

And then there is me: my first Thursday Morning Gardening Club meeting and first time using marijuana; and the token forty-five year old male of the group who suffers with arthritis, joint replacements, hypertonic muscles, chronic pain and depression. I have sat back speechless not knowing how to respond to what I've just heard and seen from these unique ladies. The only words I think I have to say is—Damn those were some good muffins!


*The conclusion of "Thursday Morning Garden Club" will appear in the December issue of Wordgathering .


Greg Gibson is a recent graduate from Colorado State University- Pueblo with a BS in Sociology and a BA in English. He is currently pursuing a MA in Disability Studies and a MA in English. Besides education and writing, he volunteers as a disability advocate. He suffers with chronic pain and other negative symptoms that accompany arthritis.