Friday, May 16, 2014

Roses: Symbols of Death and Symbols of Life

Reminder to self: on special days, check front door. Youngest son, always thoughtful, may send flowers. Not a good idea in 80 degree weather to have two dozen roses, no matter how "young" when picked and well wrapped, sit in blazing sunlight for a day or even two.

They are beautiful. Red, pink, mauve and white. Elegant and simple; most surviving but a few showing their ordeal through wilting in the earliest stage of their unfolding.

I've always loved flowers. It's one of my earliest and best memories of childhood. I used to not look forward to visiting my Grandmother because the drive took well over an hour and our car didn't have air conditioning so it was really uncomfortable in Summer. Stopping, on occasion and not always because money used for buying ice cream wasn't commonplace but a special treat, was always part of my "wishing" as we drove back from our weekly visit to Grandma's house. My grandfather passed when I was quite small so I remember my Grandma more than I do him.

Grandma would manage to stew a chicken, another luxury both for her and for us, and in the Spring and Summer, she would always tell me to "Wait just a minute, dear, before you leave. Let me cut some nice, fresh flowers for you." And she did. Lovingly gathered remembrances of a woman quite old (to me) with many grandchildren but always making me feel special with this parting gift. .

My Grandma would wrap the flowers in a wet rag and if I was lucky, some of them would survive the journey in the blazing hot car with windows rolled down making the back seat, where I sat, more like a wind tunnel where you hung on for dear life. Didn't have seatbelts -- back in the day.

She passed at almost 91 when I was pregnant with my first child, a son. I flew back to Mom's from Michigan where we were living; a very rare treat because flying at that time was not like it is today; women dressed up and so did men; it wasn't like a bus ride, it was a very special experience

Grandma had "common" flowers and those that mainly bloomed year after year. Her garden was on the back of her house but that was the entrance you used because that's where the gravel driveway was. Driving up the short hill that led to the house we'd pass a shed that had a sharpening wheel sitting prominently outside. Grandpa always kept his tools well sharpened.

A little farther over sat the most dreaded area I never wanted to go near but always had to pay a visit during the several hours we'd spend at Grandma and Grandpa's -- the outhouse.

The smell of that area will never leave my memory. And the insects! I hated the idea of going near it by myself and always begged Mom or Dad to go with me, hold the door open a crack and be ready to swat or step on anything that ventured near or (shudder) into the "two seater" where I held my nose and tried to ensure no piece of clothing got near anything it shouldn't.

I remember a concrete walk, short in length and poured by two of Grandma's six sons; they wanted her not to have to walk in dirt or mud when she had to use the outhouse. It didn't go all the way to "the facility", but it helped, I suppose.

As I've grown older, I can't imagine how she did it for as long as she did; she was about 87 when she moved from that little house to live with one of my Aunts. Or maybe she was a even older. I remember it wasn't long after a Spring or Fall when she chopped down a tree next to her house that was getting too big and she couldn't seem to get any of her "boys" to get to doing it, so she did it herself. The trunk was bigger than my fist is today. Did I mention we women are determined and some say "strong headed" in our family?

My Grandma lived to be almost 91 and my mother lived to be 99. What they saw in their lives; the history, the discoveries, the changes!

Roses recently have been for funerals. Red roses for my husband; deep pink roses for my Mom.

My husband gave me roses, red ones, several times during our time together; while we dated and when we were married. Pink roses, a shade deeper than the colors of their dresses, were carried by my bridesmaids; the maid of honors dress and roses were an even deeper shade.

Roses for a special Valentine's Day when my then "boyfriend" had already graduated from the college we both attended and was living in Michigan working in his first job; red roses; one of three bouquets delivered at the house I shared with three other girls. What a day that was!  We screamed, we cried and we felt so "special". I'll never forget that day.

Roses. A white rose I handed to my mother and a pink rose taken at the last minute from the bouquet I was laying in front of the statute of Mary; I walked over and presented them, one at a time, to my Mom and to my husband's mom as my new husband walked with me.

We walked together for decades. Now I walk alone but still beside his memory and with our daughter who in so many ways resembles us both.

I've raised roses. I've raised many types of flowers. I've become my grandmother.

Mom never really had a house before she came to live with our family. Once there was a short rental of a house but that only lasted a few months; flats and apartments didn't have flowers or space to plant anything. Mom loved flowers, though, and every chance I had, I'd put them in her room when they bloomed in our garden or get them from a florist, just to say "I love you, Mama".

Daughter and I always found a way to take a flower or two to her in the Skilled Nursing Center even when she wasn't "liking us" or turned away and followed the Undue Influence of her abuser, Julia.

As I've begun to write. I think the healing process is finally really beginning. It's been a long time. A time of complications and many challenges. Three deaths. Three times to begin another mourning process.

Flowers. For my husband. For my mother. For our beloved family pet, our cat.

Flowers for Mother's Day. From a son who's always been thoughtful and whose gift of love is seen as a gift of life and love at a time when these symbolic flowers have for so long in my life been symbols of love lost, love set aside, love buried yet always within and surrounding.

Thank you, my son. Thank you, my daughter. You are living gifts of Love.

You are roses in my bouquet of life.

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