Thursday, April 21, 2011

Patrick's Rose

  Most everyone has a best friend  at some time in their life. Someone who knew you better than anyone else, who loved you even though they saw your flaws, who knew what to say when you were down or could tell you without regret when you were making a fool of yourself. Of course this is true within the bonds of marriage, but I am not referring to the marital relationship, since it is so different in many aspects from friendship.
  For me, my best friend was my brother. He and I grew up as Army brats. We moved so often that making friends was difficult and leaving them painful, so we were often to each  other more friends than siblings. I was the oldest by four years, so when I got married, he was still in high school. During a few years when we were seperated by miles and stages of life, we went different directions, but that is often so with life long friends, they are woven in and out of the fabric of our lives. 
  After my husband and I returned from our tour of duty in the Philippines, we seperated from the military and settled down to raise our kids in North Carolina. Patrick and I were able to reconnect and it wasn't long before he moved to N.C. to be close to me. We had such fun, laughing and telling stories, playing with the kids and just hanging out. He owned his own business and worked his own hours, so many times during the day, when my husband was off at work, Patrick would come to help me with the kids and chat over garden chores.
  Patrick had a green thumb, he grew all kinds of indoor plants and collected roses for his garden. Being the "practical" one I grew food, herbs and fruits, I salted in flowers for color and if they were functional, as in  they could be used medicinally or for crafting, I felt free to use my precious garden space for them, but roses were fussy and thorny and took up room where I could plant food, so I didn't have any roses. When we went plant shopping Patrick would buy a new rose and I would say "they are pretty but you can't eat them", and head for the herbs and veggie starts. It became a standing joke over they years and the more he chided me about not having roses the more determined I was not to have them!
  Then Patrick fell ill and was too weak to garden. I would go over to keep his beloved roses pruned and fed so that they would stay lovely and bring him some cheer. We would walk around his property chatting and observing the microcosm of his yard , pausing often to rest. The scent of damask and moss roses filled the air and I would marvel at his hair shimmering like a new copper penny as we rested on the bench in the rose garden. I tried to take it all in, to etch those moments into my mind to draw from in the lonely years after his death.
   A couple of months before he died, he rallied and was feeling pretty good. We went out plant shopping and he bought a yellow rose called Graham Thomas. It was lovely,  it's yellow frills scented like citrus and rose combined. When we got back to his house with his purchase I asked where he wanted me to plant it, he smiled and told me that this rose wasn't going in his garden it was going in mine... His impish grin told me there would be no arguing the point this time, and I didn't want to anyway. So we made a garden in a sunny spot in the backyard at my house, with the Graham Thomas rose as a centerpiece. I filled the garden with herbs and flowers that were blue, yellow or white, to set off the rose. Over the years I trained it to trail along a fence and every year in late April, the same time of year that we planted it together, it gives me it's first lemony blooms. This morning I went out on the deck and there they were in all their glory, their tissue thin petals shimmering in the morning light. A reminder that those we love live on in our memories and the stories we tell about them and that even though petals fade and fall the cycle of life continues.
  I know this story has nothing to do with letter writing, but I just had to share it with you, because that is what letters are all about, sharing pieces of your story with others. Until next time, I'll see you in the mail!


  1. Oh, Elle...what a bittersweet story. You were lucky to have such a wonderful brother and best friend and the lovely roses to remind you of him. xo

  2. Smiling through tears is a thing that's done naturally. Like roses growing, and remembering.

    What a lovely little story to share. The roses are as beautiful as the telling.

    Thank you.

  3. "A reminder that those we love live. . . ." Just perfect.

    Thank you for sharing your love of your brother with us.

  4. It's perfectly natural you should write about this here.

    It IS a letter....

    to your best friend.