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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

THE HELPER... and so much more.

I have never wanted to be somebody’s wife or mother or even, bless his little heart, my grandson’s grandmother. No, I want to be ME! This is a strong personality trait of mine because I am an Enneagram 4, the Individualist.

My life was blessed with a mother-in-law who was the opposite of me in this way. She was an Enneagram 2, dubbed The Helper, which is defined by being unselfish, altruistic, and filled with unconditional love. This defined Mary to a T. She was one of the most generous, loving, kind women you ever had the pleasure to meet. She was happy to be defined by her relationship with others, at least none of us ever thought to ask her otherwise.

She passed away just a few months ago, and I had the honor of writing a brief obituary for the local paper. I struggled to find the right words to convey who she was to people who might not have met her, not wanting to settle for trite words penned many times before. I just began to write, and this poem emerged. Rather than being a tribute to Mary, it was a search within myself, a realization of the sins of omission, when it came to my relationship with her.

She is gone now, will never read or hear these words of mine, but maybe someone else will. Maybe someone will allow space for a mother, sister, wife, daughter, grandmother, friend to be who they are… outside of the titles our society bestows upon them.

Today I Plant Flowers and Think of You

Today I plant flowers and think of you

They were from a discount rack

50 cents, I believe

I put them in the car trunk and

promptly forgot them

They were discovered 3 days later

not only still alive but blooming

You would have called it A Christmas Miracle

As I make a hole in the black dirt

slip each flower out of its plastic cage

push the roots in, press soil all around

I think of you blooming

despite being imprisoned

in a life devoted to the care of others

I say imprisoned with my own prejudice

projecting emotions onto you, that may

have never been


your relationships defined you

each loved one had a different name for you

a name that came with a box

a box that sometimes had a lock

something you only realized when

you tried to get out


just you

I remember the phone calls

I was the daughter-in-love

one step removed

living far away

perhaps you thought of me as

a safe place to vent

I knew you were

a mother

a sister

a wife

a grandmother

I knew you were a friend

just like me


I didn’t realize you were also a woman

a woman who was angry

a woman who was hurt

a woman who was scared

a woman who had dreams

a woman

just like me

I try to live a life with few regrets

but if I could go back

I would send the children out to play

Make myself a cup of tea

Sit there with the phone to my ear

for as long as it took

to let you

be just you

for as long as you needed to be

Today I plant flowers and think of you

tough little violas

the flower that keeps blooming

never asking for much

they are at their best when

the tea roses have gone dormant

the trumpet vines are empty brown ropes

the showy sunflowers and hydrangeas and zinnias

are long gone

I will miss you to the end of my days

You loved me with a true love

you let me be

just me

For Mary,

my very favorite mother-in-love

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