A Visit For Her Birthday


We had walked into the florist the day before, light hearted, each with a request for the bouquet. My youngest spoke clearly, strongly, a voice that had still been a tiny peep when she heard it last naming the last flower on the list I had mentioned. The same as our dog’s name, a familiar word.

My other son wanted roses, looking at the long crimson fake ones in the window for inspiration. Standing tall in a place familiar to him as we visited often when she worked there.

I asked for anything blue, which was how she chose her clothes, which sometimes made shopping easy and sometimes frustrating. She had a million blue capri pants and a definite blue eyeshadow phase.

This day last year was the day I picked her up from the hospital, being the one strong enough to carry all the things and push the wheelchair with my youngest son riding in her lap. There was so much joy, the cancer was gone, she was going home, we all were riding high for a brief time.

We went and got the flowers today, a low full bouquet of pale roses, cherry daisies, and soft blue filler. Perfection. My eldest asked to carry the flowers, as proud as if he’d arranged it himself. They were placed carefully in the front seat and we started our drive to the older part of town, full of old shady trees and memories.

I brought up how happy last year was, and how happy she was to get to go home and spend time with them again. They had brought quiet chaos and fresh air to the hospital after they had removed the ovarian cancer and befriended one of her roommates, bumming a chance to watch Spongebob on the TV. She had left last year on her birthday, my toddler in her lap getting the ride of his life.

I still don’t regret six weeks of not knowing. Picnics in my living room and the nurse visits to check on her where the boys asked questions and handed glasses of water over dutifully.

That’s when my brave 7 year old started crying. He’d always been close to both of his grandmothers, and losing them both in three months time was a tragedy to his valiant and sensitive little heart. Then another set of eyes welled up, as he saw his big brother in pain. I almost had to pull over after that.

We had waited until late afternoon to visit, after the gardeners went home. Of course Mom’s birthday was the same day they cleaned off the stones and mowed the grass.

I felt relief as we pulled up to the empty dirt lot across from her spot and saw the windchimes hanging. I had waited first until the grass grew over, a patient wait during this drought, then sought out a windchime to hang after we had seen one in the same tree. There’s a dozen of them now in the small surrounding trees, flowering and spilling mess all over the headstones. But, for some reason all we could hear was the angel with gold hair I had found and my sons had proclaimed perfect.

That tree is also perfect for tree climbing.  I know their grandma must have enjoyed my little guys chatter and tree climbing while my eldest tried to tame a squirrel. I refuse to let it only be a place of sadness and try to temper respect for those there with a relaxed nature.I remember visiting the cemetery with my mom, without the angst that comes from a close family member dying, and wandering among the headstones.

As I always promise but never deliver I offered to come back soon and show them more family than their great grandfather who happens to share the same tree as my mom, the one who died six weeks before my eldest was born. We always drive the long way out looking for squirrels and weird headstones shaped like tree trunks.