When my sister and I were growing up, we occasionally asked my mom if she wanted flowers and why Dad never got her any—or something along those lines. She said that flowers were a waste of money because they wilted so fast and then were depressing—or something along those lines. I definitely remember the waste-of-money part. Mom’s view seemed to be that only a fool would give someone a bouquet from the florist’s.
So I never gave my mother flowers either.
Mom died when I was 39. My sister flew to Colorado from California; my husband and I drove from Illinois. Dad didn’t arrange for a memorial service, although several of Mom’s seven brothers were still alive and might have appreciated the closure. So it was to be just the four of us viewing Mom’s body in a small room at the funeral home.
As we were making our few little preparations for this event, to my astonishment I learned that Mom’s favorite flower was yellow roses. I didn’t know she had a favorite flower, and I would never have guessed yellow roses. Our houses didn’t have yellow rooms or many yellow things in them. Mom didn’t wear yellow; she favored blues, purples, greens, reds.
But Dad knew about the yellow roses. Evidently Mom hadn’t always thought that a gift from the florist was a waste of money. Did he give her yellow roses when they were dating? Or in the eight years before I was born? And if so, why did he stop? Was Mom’s standard line just her way of protecting herself against disappointment?
If I’d had any idea that Mom had a favorite flower, I would have sent her yellow roses for her birthday, wilting be damned. I would have gotten her some when she came to visit in 1992 and I learned that she and Dad were still living in the same house but communicating only via notes. Maybe I would have sent her some when I learned that she’d sued for divorce (she later withdrew the suit).
Instead, she got them when she couldn’t appreciate them: after she died. Each of us placed one yellow rose on her chest as she lay on the cloth-covered table that would take her down to the crematorium. It didn’t seem like enough of a ritual. It didn’t seem like enough of anything.
We should have given her flowers all the time, and at the end, she should have been resting on a bower of yellow roses.