Just back yesterday from a work trip to Salt Lake City- a town which always blows me away with the scenery. Denver has NOTHING on the views of mountains like Salt Lake does.
Two days before I left on that trip I spent the Sunday tying our Ballerina roses back on their hog panel trellises, so I had to wear long sleeves the entire work trip because my arms look like I lost a fight with numerous feral kittens or one very large bobcat. It’s a thorny, thorny bastard, is what I’m saying.
It’s a Hybrid Musk rose from 1937 and has quarter sized, single flowers that blooms is sprays of up to 100 flowers per spray. It is a sea of flowers in the spring and then has a smattering of blooms again in the fall. Drought tolerant, bright green leathery leaves and is an absolute favorite of ours. Found here.
Hybrid Musks are some of the easiest to grow, and have long arching stems 5-7′ long that do best with some structure or support. (With support the branches can get 12′ long).Since they’re so thorny (that feels to me like the 5th time I’ve mentioned that but appears to just be the 2nd) we grow ours as climbers on the fence. Ballerina doesn’t have much of a fragrance, probably because of it’s single form with 5 petals, but some of the other Hybrid Musks do. The Fairy is probably the most famous Hybrid Musk, but forgive me but I think that rose is garbage- Ballerina blows it out of the water. Another one of my favorite Hybrid Musks is called Cornelia found here as I guess I’m selling roses today?
Ballerina has the added bonus of a STELLAR display of adorable little orange rose hips in the fall that look like clusters of Christmas lights. That comparison was one I thought I made up, and now I see it’s listed in the description on the Antique Rose Emporium’s website so I don’t know what to think about that.
Anyway. Once it grows in a little, blooms (and I weed underneath it) I’ll share pictures.
As an update from that last post: I did visit the parents of my friend who passed away. I’d stopped by 3 times with no one there, came home after the last time I stopped by and spent an hour on the internet and FINALLY found her Mom’s number. I sent a text message explaining who I was and that I’d like to visit… and had it show up in my phone as her name. I HAD IT AS A CONTACT IN MY PHONE THIS WHOLE TIME. Goddamnit.
She replied to the text message and I headed over to visit. I took her the copies of pictures of my friend and a ZZ plant because manners or something.
It. Was. Heartbreaking.
My friends’s mom was always whip smart, intimidating as hell, strong, and with a mind like a steal trap. Back in the day she remembered my oldest daughter’s and my husband’s name, where I went to school, etc. But her grief has broken her, completely and totally. She didn’t know who I was. And like- totally fine, it isn’t about me- but I was the maid of honor in my friend’s wedding? We were connected at the hip for years in high school, and were really close for years afterwards- her mom always remembered me when I saw her. Her Mom mentioned how familiar I looked a couple of times but that was it.
Her parents did explain what had happened to her though. It turns out my friend had been sick for months and kept getting misdiagnosed. She was finally admitted to the hospital with a blood infection after numerous doctor and emergency room visits. She was fairly out of it by that point as the infection was that severe, and she also developed pneumonia when she pulled a feeding tube out and got the liquid in her lungs. They could never get a handle on the blood infection, nor the pneumonia, and weeks after she was admitted she passed away from organ failure. I asked her parents if my friend knew she was sick or dying, and they said she was never cognizant enough for that, and for the last weeks wasn’t even really conscious. So there is a small blessing there.
I asked where she was buried and her Mom said she was cremated and then asked if I would like to see her. (ugh… sure.) Expecting to see an urn, instead her mom walked me outside to a large rock in their backyard. Turns out they buried some of my friend ‘s ashes in their backyard. And yes, it was 100% as weird of a moment as it sounds. Also- this is how you get a haunted ’70s ranch house. While they are never going to sell, they also arn’t going to live forever and unless my friend’s daughter inherits the property someone is going to have a house with basically a grave in the backyard that they have no idea about.
As the spot was bare ground with a small boulder over it I asked if I could come back and plant some flowers for my friend, and her mom said of course. I have some irises (my brother in law found them in a state park around an abandoned German homesite from the 1800s), and I ordered some schoolhouse/oxblood lily bulbs. Both plants I know will grow and bloom with absolutely no care whatsoever. My friend loved daisies but these will have to do- I assume the dead aren’t picky around such things. And perhaps they’ll be a comfort to her Mom when they bloom.
As I was leaving my friend’s Mom told me it was good to meet me.
So, yup, that was as brutal of a visit as it sounds. I’ll go back at some point this weekend (or coming week)and plant the flowers as last gesture for my friend and then that’s it, you know? After that everything about my friend will be in the past.
Also this weekend (hard left turn) we’ll have our middle daughter’s 13th birthday. None of our kids like big parties, they like a low key celebration of just family and some kind of special event or trip. So we’ll have a low key dinner and then next weekend we’ll go on a pack and paddle at her request. (Kayak/canoe trip with an overnight camp on a river bank somewhere) as she’s the fisherman of the group. She’s also asked to learn how to clean fish- so you got it kid- at least I don’t have to blow up balloons! Her dinner meal of choice on her actual birthday is for Shepard’s pie and chocolate mousse instead of a cake- so that’s what we’ll be doing tomorrow. How on earth she is already 13 is positively blowing my mind, I tell you what!
In the refrain of my last few years: the world lost another good one recently. (I am not, in fact, talking about John McCain, mind you. This one’s a little closer to home.)
I am both doing well and extremely sad- it’ll hit at weird times. Watering the plants. Picking tomatoes. Randomly this sense of such loss while I wash dishes. I’m fine though, don’t worry. Grief is the price come due for loving others, I get that. And it makes me think of the others I’ve lost too- which hasn’t happened before; this dredging up of all of them together. I’ll think about how I didn’t ask my uncle enough questions. And then I’ll realize I didn’t ask ANY of them enough questions.
How did my grandmother pick her children’s names? Her oldest son is named David- did she know he was the 7th David with our last name in the family line? Was the family name thing important, or was it just Catholic names are a limited pool to chose from? How’d she get into watching basketball? How’d she raise so many kids in a 3 bedroom house? How’d she ever mentally survive burying two daughters? Was she always so funny?
My uncle- that’s the problem with becoming pen pals with him as a kid- perpetually it seems he appeared in the world fully formed as an adult- springing from Zeus’s head like Athena, I imagine. The thought never actually occurred to me that he was a teenager once- so I never asked him anything about it. What did he do? How’d he get into journalism? Or like… what was his favorite pet when he was a kid? Or did he have any? Or how’d he get into golf. Or did he know how vital it was to an awkward child living so far away from him- who grew up as not the golden child of the family- to have someone who spent time writing her and thought she was great? That said child internalized that and held on to it, and unconsciously used it on the path to successful personhood? I tried to tell him a few times, but I never asked him if he knew.
My father-in-law. He was a Golden Gloves boxer- and yet I never asked him about it? Why’d he stop and when? Why did he love horses so much? How did he end up so different from his siblings- just because he was the only boy, or what? Why so afraid of the doctor? Why so kind and funny when life hadn’t been to him? How’d he find that sweet spot for so long of “taking no shit but causing no harm?”
Or my grandfather… who I sat with late at night once and watched parliament on C-Span. I remember how we laughed at the insults and barbs and… was a shoe actually thrown? That doesn’t seem too British, so it may just be the brain playing tricks. But I LOVE Churchill and so did Grandpa… but we never talked about him. We missed that conversation by about 5 years because I came to really like Churchill after grandpa was already gone. Or his brother… Grandpa had a picture of himself, my grandmother, and his brother on the wall in his TV room… but I never asked him about him. How did his brother die? Why my grandfather left home so young as a teenager… I’ll never know.
I range between “God damn it I never asked enough” and “You can’t ever know someone’s complete life so don’t beat yourself up over it.” Back and forth like ping pong. It’s just… the missed opportunity to know someone better weighs heavy. Or maybe it’s the three volume book about Churchill I’m reading. Minutia and details on someone I never met, and yet I’m over here with just a handful of scraps and facts about the people I actually did.
I don’t know. I do know I am lucky.
When we were in the hospital with our oldest we met a dad of one of the other kids on the floor. Con man obviously pretending to be devoutly Christian. Begged money from us to buy his kid a Christmas gift. We gave him $20. I remember thinking- it isn’t only good people who’s children are sick. It isn’t only good people who are here with their dying children over Christmas. But our child was getting better and so we give $20 to someone who’s child was not because what the hell else could you do?
And so, in a similar vein to what I realized about humanity in that hospital; it isn’t only good people who die. To change the saying a bit- the graveyards are full of replaceable men. But man, how lucky am I that all of mine were good ones? That all of mine are the actual irreplaceable men in those graveyards?
I try to be grateful for the time I had with all of them. It’s a conscious effort to stay on that side of it, and not wallow because they’re gone. But i HAD them, they were there. How lucky to have had so many that were so good.
But god damn it- like, what was their favorite color? I know that for literally none of them… you see what I’m saying?
“Politicians… I go to you. I stick up for you. And you no help me now… I say fuck you Politicians. I do it myself.”
Here is to voting out EVERY goddamn worthless politician that fights harder to save embryos than our children. Who thinks outlawing the means of death for one will stop it but outlawing the other isn’t even worth trying.
Here is to ANYONE that can spend the infrastructure money to make our goddamn schools fortresses so I don’t have to glance sideways to just double check that a crazed gunman isn’t stalking up the elementary school steps where my 8 year old goes EVERY. FUCKING. TIME. I. DRIVE. BY. IT. Just you know, let’s at LEAST do that while we talk about fixing the problem itself.
Right to bear arms was instituted when we had muzzle loading guns- so go back to that. Everyone can have a muzzle loader. AR fucking 15s… not so mother fucking much.
And I am SORRY- we have pussy hat marches… and yet this keeps happening in our country?! Our marches should be bigger for this issue. What would those hats look like? Can you crochet a head wound?
My government doesn’t protect my children. They don’t protect your children. They. Don’t. Protect. Children.
What stone can I throw, what effort can I make, what horn can I blow…I guess lets recall that the walls of Jericho were felled by a horn (In that made up story) so maybe, if we blow the horn often enough and harder…
And so I say fuck you Jobu. I do it myself.
So- I’m just going to put this out there to the universe that maybe if it could stop with the making-people-I-love-drop-dead shit that’d be great. What am I comfortable with putting on the page? Or can even verbalize? I guess that loss and grieving is ubiquitous and is just the payment we give for loving others? Sure. Why not.
I had a Dutch teacher (she used to bike 15 miles to class with one of her pet rats in a carrier and then teach the class in sweaty bike shorts. The rat would sit on her desk. College is weird.) who didn’t really ever feel a need to stay on the Dutch topic at hand and would often digress into Buddhist thinking/teaching she was mulling around. One Tuesday morning (Ma’am, it’s too damn early for this crap.) she was talking about how we should see the loss of a baby as equally tragic as a 90 year old who was one day away from death. That all life is weighted equally. And yeah… that’s a big nope. Nope, nope, nope, ye ol’ rat loving professor. In Dutch? Rat liefhebbende proffessor. (How did I only make a B in this class? It’s 60% English and conjugated like Yoda… sheesh)
But life potential, happiness conglomerated, and the opportunity of having experienced much outta a long lifetime- it DOES come into play. And the death too- not too painful, and not too sudden… It’s a complex formula that never quite gets us to a “good death” but it makes the loss easier if you know your grandmother lived life to the fullest. If she was 89. And had the opportunity to laugh hysterically with all the other wives of their RV traveling/gambling group at a male stripper in Vegas doing a basketball player routine that one time back in the 80s. And then tell her granddaughter about it all those years later. And many other, inappropriate and hysterical stories. No shrinking violet- life is too short to waste it being meek- I think that’s the main lesson I learned from her.
She was a good one, that lady. I will miss her.
She was tiny but she was mighty.
And may my own toddler follow in her namesake’s footsteps with that same mirth flickering in her eyes all of her live long days.
It doesn’t feel like real loss. Not yet.
Please know, I’d have shed the tears (borrowed from that future when it finally hits home) at your funeral, if I could have.
Would that have honored more than their lack?
I meant no disrespect.
But even facing you then the loss didn’t hit home.
What did CS Lewis say? “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” And the loss is not a loss, because the body was just a body, I guess.
Perhaps when my mind is not set on being strong for my children, as my husband and I hold them tight and lead them through their grief, the loss will finally feel like loss, fully.
And yet… I move underwater the first time I am back in a grocery store.
I wish for Victorian mourning clothes.
So cashiers can stop asking me how my weekend was or if I’m having a nice day.
So that the black full skirt and pleated bodice and high neck would tell them all they need to know.
So instead of the chitchat they could grab my forearm briefly and squeeze it. And say nothing.
The world is fast and bustling and makes me want to go back and not honk at all the people who were too slow to accelerate when the light turns green.
I bet they were grieving.
My loss is not a loss.
My loss is an idea, hurtling towards my reality.
The world lost a good man recently and his loss is all our loss.