Roses do not adorn any of the rooms. I’m sitting with my computer at an empty nurse’s station and have view of two empty rooms, beds made with hospital corners. Beyond the empty bed to my right I can see the Sleeping Giant out the window. It’s a great hulk of a mountain here in what is known as the Queen City of the Rockies — Helena, Montana.
I made it here. Not an easy feat when one accepts the almost-monkhood of a writer’s life. Poverty and chastity, or something like that. I left behind a promising bloom of roses in my garden to face my friend Kate’s cancer situation. I’ve always been rebellious, like the rambling wild rose, so I’m here to lend a fighting spirit.
Kate has always been steady and strong like a standard rose that comes back after a hard winter. Everyone who knows her speaks in wonder at how she is the one comforting and lifting the spirits of family and friends. She’s amazing. There is yet life and we will nourish that.
I see her legacy in the darling teacup roses in her wake — she has nine grandchildren. The most delicate bloom budded just three weeks ago. As you can imagine, her daughter and husband are weary. A new baby (number five) and Mom hospitalized, unable to digest anything, a pump, IVs and tubes entangling her in a web Kate calls “Charlotte” (you know, as in Charlotte’s Web).
On top of all this life transition, our sweetest new rose might have a life-threatening disorder. As I cradle this tiny bundle and stare into her cherub face, I find it hard to believe. It’s like looking at bud that has a dreaded blight, but for all the wonder in the world all you can see is breathtaking beauty. We hope. We wait. We pray.
For breakfast this morning, we were treated to Steve’s Cafe in Helena. It’s Molly’s birthday and she’s being generous to everyone else. Another legacy from her Mom. Her children are so full of love — the reason I’ve cherished my friendship with Kate all these years. That woman is a fount of love.
The children are feeling silly and after coloring the eldest announces a game: Sausage. Molly rolls her eyes with her precious baby swaddled to her chest in a moby wrap. We both sip “proper cuppas of coffee” informed earlier by a children’s music CD that had us all laughing as we dressed for the day. Sausage goes like this: Ask a question and the next person who answers can only reply, “Sausage.”
“What’s your name?”
“What language do you speak?”
“What’s in your nose?”
When the 10-year-old asks the two-year-old, what are cows made of, she gets distracted and rambles on about udders and milk. I haven’t have this entertaining of a breakfast in a long time.
It’s strange being here, in Helena. When I arrived, yet afraid to go to the hospital, I paused at the Staggering Ox, an old college hang-out where Kate and I spent plenty of time “studying.” Back then, we both wanted nothing more in the world than for our children to be happy and for us to write the all-American novels. There I sat last evening, compiling flash fiction by an array of writers expressing creativity and skill, still wanting the same things.
Helena has changed much in 20 years. Things are both familiar and not. I drive around in circles knowing the post office is nearby but forgetting where, exactly. It was a triumph to find it. Old memories surface as I drive to the hospital — the gym where Rock Climber used to take gymnastics when Molly was a high school star gymnast. The print shop where Kate and I worked to get our college’s literary magazine published, so proud to share the title of co-editors that senior year. The Cathedral where we all went to mass, the museum where I learned historical research, the government office where I interned as a writer.
Also familiar yet foreign is changing a diaper. I remember how but fumble at it like a novice rose pruner. That was so long ago, yet so recognizable. Following the multiple conversations of eager children, delighting in their favorite stories. Sleeping in my friend’s bed with her cat purring by my head to show they’ve accepted me in the gap.
At breakfast, two-year-old Marcella started to talk about her rose. Every night, Molly, her husband and the children share their roses for the day. We all have thorns, but they focus on the beauty each experienced that day. Marcella is starting early, telling her Mama that her baby sister is her rose today. Eight-year-old Carly smiles across the table at me and says, “Aunt Charli being with us in my rose.” I’ve never felt so precious as I did in that moment.
We are all roses in this great garden of life. Some of us ramble, some stay close to home. Some are prizes and some are fighters. We might grow among thorns, but as Emily Bronte once wrote:
“But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.”
What is life, if not craving the rose?
June 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose. It can be straight-forward, romantic, funny. What is your rose today and what is its story? Who craves the rose or shrinks away? Why? Let the prompt fully bloom in your imagination.
Respond by June 9, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
A Memory of Roses by Charli Mills
Ramona hummed and watered, “I beg your pardon…I never promised you a rose garden…along with the sunshine…you need a little hose-water sometime.” Vic loved his roses, tending each stalk with care. Ramona tended chickens, the kitchen garden, horses and calves.
Twins? She tended twins, didn’t she? Ramona frowned. She looked across the spray of water, beyond the tall standards that would soon unfold creamy yellow. Wild roses bloomed in profusion where she found the yin-yang rock.
Vic transplanted them from the canyon where they used to ride horses and picnic from with cheese and crackers. Sad roses. But why?