Friday, April 15, 2011

Two reunions

Daddy’s rose
I enjoyed two reunions last week. One was typical of all the family reunions of my childhood. The other was of the botanical variety.

First, the botanical reunion. My father passed away more than two decades ago. But his memory burns bright, and I am still benefitting from the things I learned from him. That is why the pink rose above is so special to me.

My father approached life with a passionate curiosity about just about everything. That curiosity spilled over into an inclination toward collecting -- books, petrified wood, old handsaws, people, tools, odd shades of latex paint and . . . well, you get the idea.

A child of the Depression, he was not a hoarder, although his workshop looked that way. It was filled floor to ceiling with his bargains and freebies he had picked up. But he knew where everything was. He would eventually find some practical use for the items or use them for another passion -- painting.

We presented canvases as gifts, but they languished unused. Instead he would grab a scrap piece of wood or an old saw while he was working in that shop and paint whatever scene from the natural world that was inspiring him at the time.

Thrill of the hunt
The thrill of a good deal regularly lured him to yard sales, salvage stores and even people’s throwaway piles. All those sources of “finds” were also opportunities to add to his collection--of people’s stories.  

The pink rose is the result of one of those excursions. When he saw a man pruning roses, my father asked if he could have some of the discards in order to root cuttings. By the time he left with his free treasures, he had also added to his collection of stories. He had all the details about how the newfound acquaintance had developed the pink rose, a prize-winning variety.

Mother and I cannot remember the rose's official name, but my father’s cuttings thrived. They eventually found a home in a large bed he prepared for them and for some companion red roses in front of our home. When my mother sold the house in 2008, Joyce Raby, a family friend, took cuttings before Mother’s move into her new apartment in a retirement home. Mrs. Raby has an super green thumb, and presented me a season or two later with a large flower pot with two rose bushes in it. Alas, the red ones succumbed to my erratic stretches of too much attention or total neglect.

But I finally determined, with daughter-in-law Sarah’s guidance, an appropriate spot for the survivor. Now it is in the ground, fed and protected by some super product Sarah recommended, sprouting new growth and blooming. The bloom has yet to compare to those on my father’s rose bushes, but it is beautiful to me. It is a reunion with his aptitude for recognizing the roses of life and stopping to savor the fragrance at every opportunity.

Cousins and cousins-in-law
Cousins reliving memories and making new ones are, clockwise, Mildred, Gloria, my husband Walter, my mother, Jake, Gloria’s husband Robert, and Jake’s daughter-in-law Donna and son George.

My other reunion was a gathering of relatives from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Both my mother and father were blessed with an abundance of siblings; and, likewise, my growing up years were blessed with cousins.

Too many of my cousins on my mother’s side passed away as young adults, though. So for me, this gathering was like a distillation of all the good “cousin” times I remember when we were all still living and growing. Sharing laughter, conversation and “remember-whens” with my mother, these cousins and our spouses was another special reunion.

Now I just have to deal with the aftermath of three trips to the dessert tables!


  1. Sweet memories, and sweeter still the continuing life of the rose. :)

  2. Awww, I love this post. The rose is as beautiful as the story that followed it!

  3. I'm back! I just found your comment about the tree with shoes in it. I saw that tree on the news not long ago! You're right, it's weird.
    I clicked over and read some of your husband's posts, including the one about Johnny Mercer. I was so impressed, Walter now has a new follower :) Have a great weekend!

  4. Lots of good food and family, what could be better?? The rose is a stunningly beautiful pale pink. I am so glad you finally have one planted and growing nicely!! I have a plant of my mom's in my front yard, it is painful to look at still, but a living memory of her. Living still.

  5. I loved this too, especially the part about the rose.

  6. I too lost my Daddy years ago but he hasn't left me either. The good ones never do.
    I love the rose story also.
    Kind of envy you your large family and so glad you make time to reconnect.

  7. truly the rose is a fond fond memory and you have it still. mother was the collector in our house, daddy was the messer upper. his work shop was a disaster, he collected everything in no kind of order. the state took their house in 1987 so that got rid of the clutter when we had to move them. I have mothers christmas cactus that belonged to my dad's mother and all its little babies.
    last year i went to lunch with cousins and cousins children on my mothers mothers side of the family. we had a ball and like you there were many missing. my husband knows no one of his cousins and I know all of mine on all sides

  8. The rose is a wonderful memory and it is great to have the continuity with your father. And it is so nice to have a rose that smells nice, so many of the new varieties seem to be sterile in that way. Don't worry about the desserts you only live once!

  9. I have a photo of my dad holding an Abraham Lincolm rose almost as big as his head. He had a heart attack in his rose garden, and lay on the ground for a while, but he survived because my stepmother called 911. As he suffered so much after that heart attack, I have often thought perhaps she should have left him to die with his roses. We can't do that can we? Too bad, I cannot think of a better way to go. That or after eating three deserts/ Di