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Random Thoughts While Pruning Roses on a Hot Day

Just before our family's first Mother's Day after our 95-year-old Mom died, as I was trimming shrubbery in our front yard, my thoughts roamed through the years, remembering our unique experiences.

What in the world was I thinking of, pruning roses under the hot sun today? Well, I’d already trimmed all the other shrubs, and I’d saved this one for last. 

Remembering planting the shrub several years ago, I thought of my brother Chris, who had written the comprehensive textbook on roses which guided me on the selection, planting and care of the bush. “Everything Roses” by Chris Fenn, isn’t the only textbook of this academic with eclectic interests. 

He also wrote “Everything Fishing: A Practical Guide to Sport Fishing on Lake Lanier, Georgia” as a Christmas gift for his son, John-Paul, and numerous textbooks on advanced tax accountancy. 

For the rose book, he enlisted our niece Cathy L., to draw the myriad detailed illustrations, without which my husband and I probably wouldn’t have achieved the full success we’ve enjoyed from this beautiful plant.

This afternoon, sweat dripping down my front and back, and face beet red, I remembered when Chris grew a garden full of roses, and showed them competitively each year at the Atlanta Rose Show. 

One year, I believe it was around 1993, the effort was a family affair as usual. Our Mom, Cathy, Chris, his wife Ceci and I all went to bed the night before the Show, bundled up against the 46-degree cold which kept his roses fresh during the night. 

At 4:30 the next morning, a blasting voice shook the house: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Marching Band of the University of Notre Dame!” We nearly fell out of our beds as, the band struck up the tones of “Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, wake up the echoes cheering her name,” and so on. Well, it certainly did wake up the echoes in our brains and got us moving -- staggering into the kitchen for our coffee.

Arriving at Atlanta Botanical Gardens at the crack of dawn, we unloaded dozens of samples of his best flowers, and Chris began ministrations to coax them into opening right on cue. And, of course, we scurried back and forth, responding to his orders. “Bring me the tweezers!” “Get me a Q-tip!” And so on.

Late that afternoon, we wearily loaded up the roses along with numerous trophies, crystal bowls, silver trays, and other prizes. Oh yes, victory was sweet! We were so proud of Chris, and happy to have been part of his triumph.

Years went by; then, in December of 2010, Chris took my husband Stan and me on a cruise over Lake Lanier’s choppy waters. For years I hadn’t thought at all of my previous water skiing days. Overweight and out of breath from the long walk down from his home to the dock, I sat on the boat’s seat for a few minutes as my brother kicked it into gear.c

Then, almost without realizing it, I found myself standing up behind his seat; then, I found myself in the slalom ski position, right foot behind left, leaning slightly back, knees slightly bent, balancing against the constantly changing positions of the boat bumping over those winter whitecaps. Feeling my body sway from the waist up, I realized I’d probably be sore the next day, but thought it’d certainly be worth it. 

Long story-short, I told Chris that, at 70 years of age I would start training to get back in the shape of my prime and attempt to ski again the following summer, as I had 21 years before. He said he’d cheer me on when the times got tough. 

I worked out hard, encountered a few health obstacles along the way and approached them as I would have approached crossing a wake -- smoothly, calculatedly and with determination.

So, sure enough, last summer, with immense joy True to his word, Chris did cheer me on, and the triumph became a family affair. After a six-month hiatus, I again began training and am now ready to get up on the water again.

One thing is different, though. Mom passed last September, and that changed everything. Her death has affected my siblings and me profoundly, in various ways. What really counts, though, is that we are still close, as Mom had said she wanted us to be.

So, the roses continue to grow, we follow the rhythms of our lives, and life goes on. Those were my random thoughts today, pruning the roses in the hot sun.

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David Bruce May 18, 2012 at 10:23 PM
What a great story! I have to say that I'm very impressed by the water-skiing; that's not an especially easy form of recreation.

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