Redefining Flowers


My mother's birthday is tomorrow. She'll be 55.

My father's death anniversary is tomorrow. That makes things awkward. It probably always will.

Six years ago my father went into the hospital for heart surgery. All signs were good that he'd be in the hospital recovering and bitching about the crappy Thanksgiving meal and begging us all to sneak him in some of the good stuff. But signs can sometimes be misinterpreted. Or maybe they weren't and fate just decided to throw us a curve ball.

Either way, our family stood beside his bed while he took his last breaths. Then I caught my mother before she hit the floor.

They'd been married 30 years and he'd just turned 50 that year. I know that because I was just 6 weeks short of my 30th birthday when he died. I'd always kept track of my parents' anniversary and ages by adding 20 to my age for the anniversary and my dad's birthday and then subtracting one to get my mom's age.

That's how old they were when they got married and welcomed me into the world before the ink dried on their wedding certificate at the courthouse. Nineteen and 20.

So young, everyone said when my mother dropped me off at school.

So young, everyone said when she became a widow, quite unexpectedly, at 49.

I want to send her flowers for her birthday but flowers make me think of death. I want to send her something sparkly and frivolous but that makes me think he's been gone long enough for it not to hurt so much anymore. It's the same struggle every year. And I still feel guilty for being thankful no matter what day Thanksgiving falls on now. Pretty sure I always will.

The year my dad died, Thanksgiving happened to be the day before his heart stopped working and my mother celebrated her 49th birthday. Ying and Yang and good balances with bad and the world spins round and round. It's Thanksgiving week in 2013 and I learned of one friend losing an uncle just moments before I learned another lost her home and everything she owns in a house fire last night. Even her purse.

I breathe. And I remind myself that for every bad thing in this world, there is good. And that the good balanced out the bad. That equation works both ways. For every last day, there is a tomorrow.

Flowers. I'll buy her flowers, dammit. Flowers mean spring and life and a cheap vase my mom is never going to use again but never get rid of after the bouquet finally gets thrown away because she will always see it and know that is the vase her birthday flowers came in.

And she'll smile every time.