My Daddy's rose garden
This article belongs to In Search of Laughs! column.
has become a poignant time for me.
recall the Easters from my childhood.
The always-scratchy dress, white patent leather shoes, the hat that
would not stay on my head no matter how many bobby pins my Mother dug into my
scalp. She drew blood with those suckers
many times but it really didn't matter because the first small breeze that came
along meant the end of the day for my Easter bonnet.
remember a lovely Easter basket outside my bedroom door in the morning and the
admonition not to eat ANY of it until we came home from
young life. Except, perhaps, not being
able to eat leftover turkey the day after Thanksgiving. It's always a
(meatless) Friday. My cousins and I
would stake out the refrigerator until midnight then descend of that poor turkey
like starving orphans! Then and New Year's Eve were the only two nights of the
year we were allowed to stay up that late so there was also the romanticism of
being awake when the new day rang in. I remember the boys and I searching for
Easter eggs in the backyard. My dear
aunt would always leave some out for me to find but Dad always helped me find
some of the hidden ones. My cousins were
all male, older and much faster than me.
I got older our Easter traditions changed.
My parents and I moved far away from the rest of the family. My Mother was having a bitter fight with the
Catholic Church, so we went to several different Protestant churches for
Easter. But, died-in-the-wool Catholics that we were, we always found the
services lacking. We did this for a few
years, then the church part of Easter just stopped.
our departure from organized religion, Easter was still always a big deal to
our little family. We still got all
dressed up but we went to brunch, my Mother's favorite meal. We'd drink the complimentary champagne, eat
too much at the buffets and roll out of the place and go straight home to
clothing with some give!
a suitable time for digesting, Dad would get restless and put his gardening
clothes on. Pretty soon I'd be out there
with him. At that time my parents had a
rose garden paradise. Over 500 plants
strong, the scent from their garden on a summer day would stop passing cars to
savor the aroma. This garden was their
pride and joy, and they devoted endless time working on their "babies." Since we live in
but I have no proof.)
the end of the day, especially on Easter, Dad and I would sit on the back deck
and just enjoy the immense beauty of a sunset over an ocean of blooming
roses. The fading light would deepen the
color of the darkest petals while sprinkling the lighter petals with golden and
red light, changing the petals into tiny floral sunsets. Dad would enjoy his cocktail or wine and for
some reason, on that particular holiday, at that specific time, we would talk
about important stuff and share memories.
This was a rare occurrence for the two of us so I cherished every word.
Father lived for his roses. A yellow
leaf on a plant was an affront to Dad, as were weeds of any kind, mildew,
aphids, leaf cutters, rust, and any number of maladies that can afflict the
rose. His was a constant battle against
these foes and he was relentless in his pursuit of the perfect garden. To this day I think the poisons he sprayed on
those plants contributed to the lung cancer that took him away from us.
day my father was diagnosed with cancer, he did what he's done his entire life
when he was sick. He took to his bed and
rarely left it. He lived for a couple
months after he was diagnosed but the cancer had invaded his brain. Mom became
his full time caregiver. There was no
time for her to tend the garden and it started to assume a jungle-like
appearance. We kept the drapes on that
side of the house closed so Dad couldn't see what had become of his beloved
rose beds. Once I spent several days in
the scorching summer sun, cleaning out the garden in the areas that Dad could
see from the house. It seemed to make
him happy for a while.
is living alone for the first time in her life.
She's 82 now. A year ago she
finally conceded that the roses were simply too much work for her to keep up. That was not a happy day for her, or myself,
but it was my job to tell her it was a GREAT idea and one she should not put
off. On a day I was not there, she had
friends come and literally empty the backyard of everything belonging to the
When I visited a few weeks later, it didn't bother me much as it was
winter and the roses would have been pruned back to nubs and there's never any
color out there.
Easter, Mom had arranged to have all
native plants put in the empty garden beds.
Large potted plants were prohibitively expensive so the plants are very
small and there is a lot of open dirt around them. Mom and I went to the Easter
Vigil, as we have both recently reconciled with the Catholic Church. We even had our brunch. We ate too much, as per the Easter rules, and
came home to stretch out and relax. I
lasted about thirty minutes before I headed out to the garage for garden
shears. I approached the neighbor's
fence over and through which creeping shrubs of all kinds were invading our
backyard. Next thing I knew I was
hacking away, sweating and swearing and suddenly missing my Father so much it
hit me like fastball right over the plate and into my heart. I looked around and really saw his garden for
the first time. I knew he was seeing it
I knew it, I was squatting on the ground, sobbing, begging my Father, "Don't be
angry with us, please, please! Mom tried
so hard but it was taking a terrible toll on her health and happiness. I miss it too, Daddy, but we mustn't let Mom
know. It would only break her already
shattered heart. Please Daddy, walk
with me in the new garden and look at the little plants that need to be nursed
along. Soon they will cover the empty
dirt and show their own particular beauty.
There is promise and growth here!
You and I can still share our sunsets.
We just will be looking through a new picture frame."
has become a poignant time for me and for the ghost of my Father who walks with
me still through a garden neither of us recognizes. We no longer bond through his beloved roses
but we still find each other in the land.
The rich, precious land that was so dear to him. It nurtures not only
growing things but our hearts as well when we take the time to look and
listen. We note the movement of the
earth as new seedlings push it aside in a determined search for the sun. We hear the roar of new growth. Both are bittersweet on Easter Sunday.
miss you, Daddy…And your rose garden.
by Denise Torgerson for her Dad)
from Lue: This is a beautiful rendering of a bad moment that we will all share.
readers, Every week my producer in Los Angeles, Denise Torgerson, patiently
makes sure my articles for my column are cogent and free of bad
punctuation. After fact checking and
punchline inspection, she permits me to send them to The Cheers. As I read her
touching tribute, my thoughts and jokes paled in comparison, so, I decided the
silly little things I have to say will wait until next week.)