Friday I received 18 roses from my father-in-law Gene, never mind that he died over two and a half years ago. I saw the roses on sale at Dillons ($9.99 for 18 rainbow roses!) and bought them, hauled them home, placed in a vase on the table and knew that even if I did the buying and carrying, they were from Gene, who never failed to leave roses on my kitchen table whenever roses were on sale.
After a day, I realized that to my shame, Gene didn’t just buy me roses but my mother-in-law also. Both of us would receive a dozen or more roses he found somewhere in town on sale. Additionally, he often brought sale roses to Meals on Wheels, and had one rose delivered to each elderly woman on the list. So I went back to Dillons and at least got my mother-in-law roses. When I set them on her kitchen table last night, she was delighted. “I love roses,” she told me, and then reminded me how Gene would scan the newspapers to find roses on sale and then go fetch them for us.
Whenever I thanked him for the roses, he shrugged it off, and said, “Well, I knew my son wasn’t going to get you any,” which was true. Ken has given me flowers over the years, but usually from fields, and he has a particular adverse reaction to the hothouse varieties shipped far and wide to floral shops (although he has been known to find slightly aging flowers in the trash bin behind a floral shop, and bring those home). As for me, I love roses, having grown up with a grandfather who babies multiple rose bushes in his tiny backyard.
So now I have the rainbow of roses open wide on the table, reminding me how the beauty of the past and present can converge, how the dead aren’t completely gone, and how gifts may blossom in grocery stores, memory and the love that doesn’t die.