Flowers. I never paid them much attention. But one of the things my wise mother taught me: "every man must know his gal's favorite flower". So I know all about the Daffodil.
I bought her thick bunches of them when we began dating during the spring of 1999.
They were in her bouquet when we married the following spring.
She planted them around our home to greet the warmer weather each year. They lined the sidewalk that leads up to our front door. She scattered little groupings throughout the flower beds surrounding the front of our house. But her favorite Daffodils are planted out back in the flower beds near her three season porch. There, if the temperatures are warm enough, she will open the windows while she drinks her morning coffee just to smell their fragrant offerings.
I brought her home a bouquet of Daffodils the day after she told me the news that we were going to have our first baby. Cost me a pretty penny considering they were out of season. She smiled while inhaling deeply and said "Do you realize that the baby is due in the spring? Maybe he will be greeted by our Daffodils when we bring him home."
And he was. But by that time I had come to hate those Daffodils.
Modern medicine shouldn't allow women to die during childbirth. I didn't even realize that kind of thing happened anymore. We entered that hospital holding hands, full of happiness and anticipation.
I left hollow, alone and empty handed. Our baby boy would stay a few days just to make sure he was okay. I had "arrangements" to make.
The funeral home was full of Daffodils. It seems everyone knew it was her favorite flower.
While standing at the grave site, I noticed Daffodils growing on other graves here and there. Their yellow faces all seemed to be turned in our direction offering their condolences.
Some of the Daffodil arrangements were brought back to our home after the funeral to sit on the counters and tables during the meal someone planned after the burial. I don't know who did all these things. I was living in a blur.
Our baby boy had come home that same morning. My sister-in-law came with me to pick him up. Made sure we had all the things we needed to bring him home. All the things my wife had lovingly picked out for him.
She stayed for a few days. Taught me all the things I needed to know to take care of a newborn. I know it was hard for her to leave, but she has kids of her own and a husband to care for 6 hours away.
I don't know how many days had passed. My days and nights were a blur of feeding, diapering, and crying (the both of us) but that night my son had been crying for what seemed like hours. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. I was exhausted. As he screamed in my arms, I looked over at the vases full of Daffodils. And my anger grew. I realized that over these days as I sat caring for my son in my living room I was watching those Daffodils wilt and slowly die.
I hated those flowers right then. I hated how they had made me witness to another death. I hated how they seemed to mock me, reminding me that I didn't get the chance to grow old with my wife.
The anger seemed to be taking over. I wanted to shake my son to make him stop crying. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to die.
With tears streaming down my face, I laid my screaming son on the floor and walked out the door. I went into the garage, picked up a garbage can and then stepped out into the cool night. I walked over to the front of the house and looked down at the dying Daffodils. Most of the flowers were dried, brown and scattered around the bases of the stems. Some still hung from their stems grasping for one more day.
Angrily, I grabbed the first stem and pulled. It snaps off at the base. This only infuriates me more. I dropped to my knees and dig my fingers into the dirt, grabbing hold of the bulb and yanking it from the ground. I leaned over and whip it into the garbage can, hearing the satisfying thump of it hitting the metal bottom.
I reached into the dirt for the next bulb. I notice the days warmth in the dirt as my fingertips close around it. The warmth of life. Like the life that was ripped from me I'm thinking as I pull the bulb out of the ground and hurl it into the metal can.
I work on my hands and knees like this until I had ripped out every bulb around the front and sides of the house. I was headed to the back yard when I suddenly remembered my son. I had been so consumed by rage and focused on one thing that I forgot I had left him on the floor crying. I realize now that it is quiet and suddenly I have a feeling of panic in my chest.
I let go of the garbage can full of Daffodils and run into the house. There is my son on the floor where I left him sound asleep. His face is blotchy from all his crying. As I stand over him drained of anger, I see my wife in his face. I drop to my knees and sob into my dirt covered hands.
A year has passed.
I am sitting on the back porch in the sunshine enjoying a cup of coffee and the smells of the Daffodils that are still planted around the three season porch. My sons toddles over to me. There is dirt smeared on his chubby cheeks and a big smile on his face as he offers me his prize.
"Oh! That is beautiful son! You picked one of mommies flowers! But let me show you how to pick one the right way." I point to the dirt covered bulb dangling off the bottom of the flower. "We want to keep this part in the ground. So that they will come back every year."
As we dig in the soil to replace the bulb, I talk to him about his mother. At that moment I decide that this fall my son and I will start replacing the rest of the Daffodils. I will tell him stories of his mother while we do it. Hopefully, he will develop a love for the Daffodil just like his mother and I.