Copyright 1995 by Barbara A. Scott

The Rose

What would you do when the opportunity finally came to inflict some of the pain you had suffered--when the time you hoped for, longed for, schemed and waited for finally came about? You see, everyone has a reason for what they do. Even Hitler. Not that I'm comparing myself to Hitler but I had reason. It was the anger that chewed away inside of me like a rat, chronically wearing away my soul, sometimes burning hot, but I was able to hold it in.

The truth is the Rose was the most beautiful creature I have ever known. She possessed fine satin skin with a delicate pink blush, and hair the color of an exquisite yellow rose. Her hair was the same buttery-yellow as the Golden Treasure Rose bred by her father. During my childhood, she often told me the story. Her father looked on his perfect baby girl and called her his long stemmed rose bud. Then she would laugh and hug me; I was her sweet, simple Daisy. Her sturdy, dependable, plain little Daisy.

When I fill the crystal vase with water and arrange the bouquet I bring to Rose's cell-like room, I study the pictures on the wall above her bed. They are the same pictures I loved to look at when I was a girl. She stands with her prize winning Arabian stallions and mares, her slim, gently curved body framed by the graceful beasts she raised.

Their creamy coloring complements her goldenness. A newspaper printed photo and article present her in black and white but I can remember the shimmering, hot July day in vivid color. Standing in a crowd, I was five years old, holding the hand of an unimportant adult I don't remember. But I do remember spilled lemonade sticking my shoes to the pavement, the salty smell of popcorn and peanuts. I remember the shifting bodies behind me and the music of the approaching band. I remember the Rose leading the parade on her dancing white Arabian, a golden-haired princess sparkling with rhinestones and sequins in red, white and blue and a tall white western hat. She was extravagantly beautiful with red lips and arresting eyes.

I didn't expect much from the Rose; just to be included in her company was enough. People were drawn to her because of her delight in the world. We all saw promise of an adventurous and enticing secret in her eyes. She flirted with men, women, and children, and we loved her. But for all the excitement, the Rose was unable to sustain a friendship past the initial stages and then she was off looking for excitement somewhere else.

But the discarded never became angry. They were hurt and bewildered and wondered what they did wrong. They adjusted to being part of her supporting cast and usually lingered on. They just had to accept the fact that trying to hold on to the Rose was like trying to capture sunlight in a jar.

I never expected to be loved like the Rose so my plans for life didn't include marriage when I left our town to attend college. But meeting a man who was twelve years my senior, who said that I was refreshing, sweet and without guile changed my plans. He said my name, Daisy, suited me perfectly.

We married. I gave up speculating why years ago. The war precipitated rash behavior. He shipped out to the Pacific campaign. I went home and delivered a daughter. He came home to me after the war and we added two more children to our family.

But the fascinating Rose lived there too, and one day he came to me. He asked me for his freedom. He was desperately in love with another woman. He said he didn't mean to hurt me, he would always care for me and support the children.

But the Rose never wanted marriage. She wanted an illicit lover, danger, excitement. So he learned a lesson about the Rose, and I took him back. Times were different back then. At the age of twenty-two with three small children, I wasn't as brave as the girls are these days.

Life was tolerable. My dreams of romantic love and being worthy of love died, of course. I cooked, cleaned, raised the children. He worked as an accountant at the factory and he started growing roses in the backyard--beautiful, fragrant, velvet red, lemon cream, curly pink, ruffled orange, and brilliant golden roses. I watched him from the kitchen window as he pruned, fertilized, mulched and cultivated the most beautiful garden in our town. He won prizes at the county fair and people walked by our house to gaze at the roses which he raised with the love a father should give to his children.

Our children grew up, graduated from high school and left home. At his retirement party he was presented with rose bushes. So he spent more time in the backyard garden and then he built a green house so he could tend his roses all year long.

I knew that he was seeing her again. One afternoon he cut a half dozen Golden Treasure Roses, wrapped the stems in a wet paper towel and left for the afternoon. It became predictable. He went to her on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I didn't say anything. Why leave him now and let the Rose win? I stayed in my cozy, safe home and watched him cut the roses and leave two afternoons a week for ten years.

I endured the neighbors' curious gazes, "friends" who offered me thoughtful advice, acquaintances who let me know where he was going. My own children pitied me and my minister treated me gently. "Poor Daisy, how does she put up with it."

Occasionally I ran into the Rose in town. She tried to engage me in polite conversation in front of the curious people who passed. She was the center of attention and speculation again. She glowed. As years went by her skin became translucent. Her hair didn't darken or become mousy it just became lighter until it was white. As she aged she became delicately beautiful. "Poor Daisy, she's a saint."

But while I waited patiently for my opportunity there were small ways I could work toward my goal. The year he had a minor stroke, the doctor said he had elevated blood pressure and needed a controlled diet. The dietitian gave me lists of food and recipes recommended by the American Heart Association. I lost them in the trash can behind the garage then I created wonderful rich casseroles and desserts. I forgot to remind him to take his medications and forgot to pick up the new prescriptions. "Poor Daisy, she's getting forgetful as she gets older."

As he bent more with gravity, I stood straighter. As he became more unsteady with his cane, I became more sure. As he got more needy, I developed more independence. As he became more vague, my mind grew sharper.

The day Rose fell, her neighbors came to our house for him. I accompanied him to her apartment to pick up a few things to take to the hospital. Neighbors reported she was forgetting to feed herself and couldn't remember to turn off her stove. She had suffered several falls. I was there when the doctor wrote the order that sent her to the nursing home. I helped him move her clothes over and I hung the pictures on the walls. "Poor Daisy, how could she actually help that woman. Things like that probably don't matter when you get old."

I didn't let him leave me behind on Tuesdays and Thursdays anymore. When he walked to the home I was with him. I sat with them in the lobby and took pleasure from the pain in his eyes as she grew more isolated in her dementia. But it wasn't enough and I still waited. The day I brought the Rose a doll--we watched her stroke it while she babbled indistinct meaningless sounds to it--was the last day he went to the home.

I was still waiting. I cooked, I watched, I planned until the day he fell in the yard, paralyzed on his left side. The ambulance transported him to the hospital where his doctor eventually put him in rehab. Every day he worked for three hours with therapy. Painfully he pulled himself up in the walker. He cried, trying to form words. He struggled over buttoning his shirt and tying his shoes. Therapists and nurses promised, "Keep trying, keep working and you will be able to go home." I sat, and knitted and waited. "Daisy is so loyal and supportive."

The day of the meeting, they pushed his wheelchair into the conference room. They seated me at the table with his therapists, his social worker, his nurse and the rehab coordinator. They had it all planned and came with lists of equipment needed, recommended changes for our house, orders for a home safety evaluation, the schedule for outpatient therapy. The white-coated professionals presented their glowing reports. He wouldn't need much assistance at home and there were numerous home services to help.

I was prepared for the scene that was finally set for me. My turn. My hands trembled with excitement as warm, gratifying tears slid down my cheeks. The nurse placed a comforting arm around my shoulders while I confessed how painful it was, but I just couldn't take him home. The stress was more than I could bear, couldn't he be sent to the nursing home where the Rose lived. "Poor Daisy, she is much more fragile than we realized."

Then I went home and hired a gardener to tear out all the roses. I wanted different flower varieties planted but, especially, cheerful painted daisies in pink and red, black-eyed Susan daisies, daisies with bright copper petals and glorious Shasta daisies with lots of rows of white narrow ruffled petals surrounding butter yellow centers.

What would you have done in the same circumstances? Some urge forgiveness and healing. Lance the festering wound; drain off the infection and be whole. Others might sell out and travel. Forget. They say, "Put the anger behind you", but I can't because hate is the skeleton that my life hangs on. I hug my revenge to myself and savor it. The anger keeps me alive.

Every Tuesday and Thursday I cut an armload of daisies that I carry to the nursing home. I place a bouquet in the Rose's room and in his room; then I push their wheelchairs to the lounge where I put together a jigsaw puzzle. Rose prattles to her doll and he sits watching her. He doesn't ask to go home anymore.

Nurses pass. I hear shish shish of crepe soled shoes on the linoleum. I hear the whispers. "Poor Daisy, can you imagine having your Husband and your Mother in the nursing home at the same time? I don't know how she does it."