By Ginny Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
In 2003, when Martha and Roger Williams were 70, they found out they were going to have a child – a great-grandchild they would adopt when he was just a few days old.
In the weeks and months before Parker was born, Martha fretted over the impending birth. How would they take care of him? Were they too old for this challenge? Were they crazy?
So to relieve anxiety and stress, she started clearing out her backyard, a woodland area covered in leaves and trees.
“I redeveloped all this back here so I could deal with having a baby,” said Martha. “This was my Prozac, my therapy. It was all woods, covered in leaves. It had never even been raked. We’d never done anything to this area until I found out we were getting Parker.”
Naturally, the couple named the backyard Parker’s Park.
And it’s filled with all things boys love: a trampoline, a swing set, motorized Jeeps and four-wheelers, a picnic table and toys.
It’s also filled with love itself, in the form of thousands of flowers and plants the Williamses sunk in the ground to beautify the area and to welcome and honor Parker.
“I know heaven’s going to be greater than this,” Martha said, “but this is as close to heaven as I can get on earth.”
Whispering to plants
The first thing they planted were daylilies – 500 to be exact. The couple’s front yard is full of them and Martha moved some to the back. But she also purchased some bulbs from garden centers and catalogs.
“Every time she’d see something new that she didn’t have, she had to have it,” Roger said.
Next came transplanted forsythia and then irises.
“I’ve got gorgeous irises,” Martha said. “I tell them, ‘You’re my favorite, but don’t tell the daylilies.’ I whisper it real low so the daylilies don’t hear me.”
She recently finished planting seven hydrangeas she’s rooted.
“They’re small, but they’re in the ground,” she said.
Because the woodland area is so full of tree roots, digging wasn’t always so easy. So a lot of plants, particularly 150 caladiums, are growing in large pots.
“Last year, I asked for pots for Christmas,” she said. “I probably got 20 to 25. I won’t be doing that again. It was too much work.”
Petunias and impatiens hang in pots from trees and everywhere you turn, there’s a clump of hostas.
“I have a friend and her yard is covered in hostas,” Martha said. “She told me to come get them out of her yard, so that was another gift to me.”
Good citizenship award
There are seven seating areas in the backyard, including a wooden picnic table, a concrete picnic table with benches and a space with Adirondack chairs.
Paths wind among beds of daylilies, hostas, forsythia, irises and pots of caladiums. Bicycles and Tonka toys are tucked in flower beds. More than 30 bluebird birdhouses – painted white with red roofs to match the Williamses’ house – are affixed to trees around the yard.
“As soon as I get off work, I’m out in this yard,” said Martha, who is the manager at Rosewood Residence, an assisted living home in Tupelo. “Honey, my mind goes all the time about what I can do out here.”
Parker spends hours outside every day with his parents – when he’s not playing coach-pitch baseball, or hunting and fishing with Roger, or spending time at the library.
“He’ll be in second grade in the fall at North Pontotoc,” Roger said. “He’s made the A honor roll and gotten the good citizenship award. That’s what I’m most proud of – that good citizenship award.”
Now, at 76 and 77, Martha and Roger realize they’ll be in their late 80s when Parker graduates high school. And they’re OK with that.
“I hope I live to see it,” she said. “We realize we may not. Maybe they’ll wheel us in in wheelchairs. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”