Monday, April 11, 2011

Slice of Life: My Mother's Birthday

This afternoon my father and I planted flowers while my mother napped. My father dug the holes and I squatted before each one, laying in a phlox plant, covering it with dirt, watering it. I had a vision, a sudden grip of fear, as he dug the third hole: what if my father should suddenly fall? What if he were to drop his shovel, grasp his chest, and gasp? Those are thoughts I have to shake off, blink away, dismantle.

Today is my mother's 84th birthday. While she slept and after we planted a dozen phlox for her, my father and I sat together on the patio. "I've lost the gift I bought your mother," he said to me. "I hid it somewhere so she wouldn't find it. I've looked everywhere, and I just don't know where I put it." I wish I could help him. I wish he'd told me where he put it when he did, but chances are I would have forgotten his hiding place, as well.

I put my hand on top of his. We watched a mockingbird alight on the fence. The colors were too rich for a photograph, and although I thought about taking a picture of the pair of jeans and seven white socks hanging on the clothes line, I memorized it all instead. My father's hand. The pink and white dogwoods and a grass so green I had to stop looking, and couldn't look away. The yellow pansies and my father's blue shorts. The smell of leather and the red handle of his pruners.

I can't help it. I memorize this moment because I am too aware that someday they will end, these warm spring days planting flowers with my father while my mother naps.

The grass is greener than ever and my mother's eyes are blue. The phlox are periwinkle and purple. On the clothesline my father's jeans flap in the wind.


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