For the past week, I watched them unfold. A vase of tulips sat on my kitchen counter moving through one stage of intoxicating beauty to another, each day’s visual array outdoing the previous day. And a stinging yet joyful memory was aroused.
My dad passed away this month two years ago. He bought me flowers. First, he asked what color I liked and I told him to choose since he was the one buying me flowers.
He chose pink. They were tulips, breathing a little fresh air into January after the unimaginable heartache of the holidays. It was to be the last day he would ever choose anything for me.
We had just left the cancer specialist office where he jovially conversed with the doctor, and still tried to beat him in an arm wrestle, with the little bit of steroid strength he had left.
After stopping for a lunch where he ordered his final Jonnie Walker, allowed by the doctor, we decided to pick up a few groceries. The dichotomous marital relationship between my mom and him caused regular disagreements and I was once again mediating an argument, this time about chestnuts, in the middle of Central Market. My Dad wanted more even though we had just ordered a large box straight from the grower somewhere in the middle of the country. And his obsession with chestnuts continued morphing into a typical battle of words that he always won. All the while, I watched through a haze as I was still trying to process the meaning of the doctor’s words from an hour ago, “Call hospice now”.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, my Dad felt compelled to choose the first ever flowers for me.
Apparently, the large tumor was gone from his brain, but the inflammation was beginning to wreak havoc. He had survived brain surgery at the age of 86. And this was week 3 post surgery, one day before he fell into a coma.
The flowers lasted longer than any other tulips I had ever had. I now look at the small glass vase holding the dried pink petals as it sits on the shelf. Suddenly the writhing waves of loss shake me, yet the view of the new tulips I have watched daily for the past week infuse joy and hope into my tears.
Life is a beautiful yet arduous journey. It is through the unfolding of these petals, I am reawakened to the hope that he is still here somewhere with me. Although we can’t hold our loved ones forever in our arms, they live on in our hearts.
-Erika K Rothwell
An excerpt from a memoir in progress.