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DON'T SCHEDULE THAT FUNERAL UNTIL YOU KNOW FOR SURE YOU'RE DEAD
May 22, 2004
 
John and Ann Marie waited until a day when school was not in session to take down John's back fence, just in case: the property line abuts the schoolyard. Then they whacked at the fence with sledge hammers all morning until it collapsed, bundled up the splinters and filled in the post holes. No more fence.

And no more rose bush, either. A large pink everblooming rosebush was a necessary casualty of this operation. Can you use this, John asked, and I said Sure. I always say Sure.

I put it in a bucket of water. It bloomed desperately, sensing danger. It took a few days, maybe a week or two, before I got around to planting it. Dug a deep, wide hole in the back flower bed and set the bush in it, on a little mound of compost-y soil. Filled in all around the roots with siftings of soil and worm turds. Tamped it all down. Just do what you can, I told it.

Reeling, it dropped leaves. No surprise there. Soon it was a thicket of brown sticks, with not a leaf to be seen. That was okay; winter was on its way. We would see in the spring what really happened.

And, in the spring, the signs were not good. There were two green canes, but the rest were stubbornly brown and dry. I chopped the thing back almost to the ground -- treating a rose like a weed usually makes it grow like one, I have read. But there was no sign of life. Other roses in the garden were busy, sending up new canes, growing dainty sets of five leaves here and there. Soon some were budding. Out front, the Dublin Bay bloomed, a deep red. But John's rosebush was dead. Oh well. I tried.

I was just thinking about what to plant in its place when I happened to glance in its direction while picking columbines. I could scarcely believe the evidence of my own eyes: green shoots from the bottom of the plant, a dozen of them. I came close. Tiny green shoots from the dead wood, too. Guess the dead wood wasn't really dead.

I used to live in a yard by a school. I would bloom for the children every spring and all summer, and sometimes they saw me and said I was pretty. They would walk by me every day and I would nod a bloom at them: Have a nice day. Be good. Pay attention. Study hard. The girls were tall and the boys were little, and they used to chase each other around the schoolyard and scream their heads off, while I set buds in the spring and bloomed as late into the fall as I possibly could.

Then something terrible happened. I still don't remember what it was, but when I woke up, I was in a bucket beside somebody's porch, with only water to drink. I survived like that for more than a week, sent out every bloom I had, hoping somebody would see me and help me. Then a lady came and put my roots in a hole with some worm turds, finally -- I don't think I'd have lasted another day without something to eat.

It was a long winter. It was cold. I was the only rosebush in this part of the new garden, and everyone else in my bed was fast asleep under the ground. I was a little drowsy myself. The snow came. We had a lot of snow. I look like a cotton plant in the snow.

In the spring, the lady came back and chopped me almost to death, just about down to the ground. That woman is a menace. She did bring by some food, so I suppose she means well.

And do you know what? The other day I was sitting there, soaking up the sun in my bones and thinking, and I heard a voice I knew. The man in whose garden I used to live was here, visiting the lady with the clippers. He was a nice man. And I heard her tell him I was dead! What an idiot. She said she's going to give up on me and plant something else in my spot.

I am not dead. I was just waiting for the proper time. I started a couple of canes that very afternoon. Show her.
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