Monday, 19 August 2013

The Ever Blooming Hibiscus

The occasion was my father’s sixty-fifth birthday. We went from planning his party, to planning his funeral with a suddenness that was shocking.

He started that day as usual, with his coffee, a cigarette and the paper, before he was to meet friends for a game of tennis. He collapsed on the tennis court, and despite every effort, died from a heart attack.

The following morning my brother and I accompanied my mother to make the plans for his funeral. There was a florist shop, very conveniently located on the same block as the funeral home. My mother asked me to see to the flower arrangements and I set off, the responsibility wearing heavy on my heart.

When I saw the orange Tiger Lilies, a favourite of my father’s, I felt they were the perfect choice.

But my mother was an artist, so I couldn’t make the final decision without her approval. I didn’t want her to be further stressed because the selections didn’t suit her sense of colour and balance. She approved all of my decisions, though given her frame of mind that day she might have said OK to dandelions and daisies.

As we were leaving the store she stopped to look at a basket of hibiscus sitting on the floor, her eye drawn to the vibrant red blooms. I motioned my brother ahead and quickly made arrangements to have the basket sent to the house, and signed the card from her children.

That plant meant a lot to her, as it was sent to her specifically, and not directly associated with the funeral. She kept just those blooms; and sent all the funeral flowers to local nursing homes and hospitals.

Months later, Mom planned a trip to Florida. She and my Dad had a home there, close to my grandmother, and there were matters that needed her attention. I was given the responsibility of caring for the hibiscus in her absence.

I have to say, there is absolutely nothing green about my thumb. I had silk plants, and blamed my lack of any real greenery on the cats, not owning up to the fact that I killed every plant I had with the drought/ flood syndrome.

That means I’d forget to water the plant until it was desert dry, and then I’d flood it in an attempt to bring it back to life. The hibiscus died a particularly bloomless death in my care.

Shortly before Mom returned from Florida, I went back to the florist and bought another hibiscus, they all looked the same to me, red blooms and green leaves. I put it in the original basket and proudly, and quickly, returned it to her.

The next fall, once again, I was given the care and responsibility of The Hibiscus. No, no, no. Not again. Why did this plant thrive and bloom for my mother, and wither and die for me? OK, regular watering might be a factor, but really, I did water it, occasionally, not regularly, but sometimes.

So, in the spring, I ventured out again, and bought my mother another damn hibiscus. Keeping up the charade that it was the same plant, good daughter that I am, I gave it back to her with grace and good riddance.

That next fall, when she was planning her trip south, I could only shake my head. I might as well have thrown that plant out the minute she’d left; the result would be the same.

We had dinner the night before she was to leave, when she said there was something she needed to talk to me about. She started off with a serious tone, but couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “You don’t have to buy another plant,” she said, “much as I appreciate the thought and effort.”

“You knew it wasn’t the same plant?” I asked.

“Of course, I knew.”

Yes, of course she knew, the way mothers always know.


I think of her whenever I see a hibiscus. When I saw one today, it brought back this warm and wonderful memory, that I just had to share.

Love you, Mom.



No comments: