Parting Gift



I have a love/hate relationship with orchids. I love their simple, elegant lines, thin, perfectly-veined papery petals, dramatic stamen and pistils. But they are just too delicate for my bull-in-a-china-shop brand of gardening. (I major in hardy plants that can weather a fair amount of neglect.)

I feel sure Steve recognized this horticultural handicap on my part. But almost every year he would produce a novice orchid to celebrate Valentine’s Day or my birthday, maybe an anniversary.

In most ways, I think he knew me very well, generally accepting the more disappointing aspects of my nature and habits. So when he would bring home a new orchid (never to sit alongside an existing one or a collection because I alway managed to kill them off before the next victim arrived), I would feel such a mix of feelings. Surprise (“We’re gonna’ try this again?!”), worry (“How quickly will I kill this one?”), and just a wee bit of hope (“Maybe this time…”) But floating above all of these emotions would be the sweet awareness that Steve had more faith in me than I did in myself.

His last orchid gift to me sits on a corner table in my living room. Last March’s birthday present. I must say I had made friends with this one. Pure white, delicate, it always reminded me of a young bride. It was doing pretty well until August, thriving on its’ diet of two ice cubes once a week. Then began that six month stretch when everyone and everything I cared about became neglected in one way or another. Like every one before it, the orchid dropped all of its lovely petals, then sat there in naked defiance–just daring me to throw it out.

But it was the last gift I would ever receive from Steve, so I just couldn’t. And besides, none of us looked any better, and we were being allowed to stay. It seemed an extra measure of grace was in order.

And now, when I look at it this evening, I’m so glad I didn’t sent it off to the dreaded green can. It still carries beautiful, rounded jade green leaves at its’ base, but then its’ stalks look like two straight green sticks. From a distance, house guests would probably wonder why it hasn’t been tossed yet.

But look more closely and you will see why it’s been given a reprieve: pushing out of that dead-looking stick-like stalk at an odd angle is a lively spring green four inch section of new growth proudly sporting two tiny baby buds. Life. NEW life.

Feels like a familiar message from Steve: “Don’t give up, Darlin’. I know you can do this. You’re a lot more capable than you realize.” A message I so need to hear during this most challenging season. A good, kind word sent from my perceptive husband, as seen in the form of this silly, optimistic plant–all full of potential.

Thank you, Honey….You’re still loving me.