The Red Rose by Brenda Looney
It was a beautiful spring day and I was in a cleaning mood. I had to make a quick run up to K-Marts to pick up some cleaning supplies. As I entered the front door there was a large display of half dead Easter plants sitting in the center aisle. I was drawn to them and feeling very sorry for their sad state. They were the plants that had not been chosen to grace someone's Easter table and now they were shoved all together and hadn't even been watered. Most of them were past bloom and needed some tender care if they were to live on. There is something about me that feels the need to rescue dying plants and try to breathe life back into them. I did not really need any more plants, but for some reason something was telling me to buy the cute little miniature red roses. I knew all they needed was some trimming and water and a little food and to be 'talked to' and they would perk right up again. They really looked sad and depressing. Without another thought I picked up two pots of red miniature roses and put them in my basket. I told them, "You're coming home with me and I promise I'll take good care of you. I know that you have been forgotten and neglected, but you were once useful and beautiful and you will be again." No one was looking at these half dead plants but me. Other shoppers were just pushing their carts on by without so much as a glance. The holiday was over so what was the need to purchase an Easter plant now. No one could seem to see their worth but me.
I browsed around the store and picked up my cleaning supplies and pushed my cart into a checkout line. Just ahead of me there was a senior lady that was just about checked out and behind her was another senior gentleman who was busily engaged in conversation with her. I couldn't help but notice the jacket the man had on. The front of it had Veteran's emblems all over it and on the back in bold letters was his name with the prefix of Pvt. His hair was white and cropped very short in a buzz cut military style. He had a cap on with VFW written on it. I started to pay attention to what he was saying. He and the lady were bantering back and forth. I heard her say, "When you were over there fighting, I was home building your planes." She turned her head and walked out of the store. At first I wondered if maybe he had been trying to pick her up or something. I later realized that he was just wanting to talk........to anyone who would listen.
He put on the counter a bag of popcorn and one package of chocolate candy bars. He kept talking on and on to the young twenty-something cashier who was politely smiling but not giving him eye contact or really paying attention to what he was saying. He kept turning around to look at me and talked and talked. I smiled also and tried to respond to what I could on what he was saying. He was talking mostly about the war. He said that he used to be able to run like a rabbit but now he'd slowed down. He had a definite pride about him but I suspected he had been drinking. I would catch a faint whiff of alcohol when he turned to talk to me. He confirmed my suspicions when he mentioned the lady cops didn't think too highly of his whiskey habit. I didn't comment.
I know many seniors suffer depression and are lonely and some turn to alcohol to drown their pain, loneliness and sorrows. I suspected that he didn't really need that popcorn and candy but had made the purchase just to get in the store and have someone to talk to. He took his time counting out his money in the exact change and he never skipped a beat with the nonstop chatting with the cashier and myself. In the short time I was standing there with him I found out he was a widower and that his only son was dead. He kept bringing up old war stories and it amazed me at how fast he could talk and how much history he could cover in such a short time. He lingered at the end of the counter while the cashier rang up my purchases. She was totally ignoring him by now and I guess he finally took the hint and moved slowly away from us. I could see he hated to leave and he very slowly walked out of the store.
The cashier rang up my little pots of roses making a comment about how they didn't look too good. They were marked down to 75% off and I knew they would be beautiful again. They were just neglected that's all. I checked out and headed out into the sunshine to head home to resume my cleaning. I glanced over to the bench just outside the store and saw the old war veteran just sitting there all alone. He had opened up his popcorn and was throwing it piece by piece at some birds who were eagerly snatching it up. I don't know why, but I felt drawn to the old man and turned my cart in his direction.
When I reached the bench I took one of the miniature red roses out of my cart and sat down next to him. I told him the rose really did need someone to talk to it and since he liked to talk so much would he like to have it. I quickly told him that all it needed was a little pruning and some water and it would be good as new. I told him red was my favorite color and since he was a veteran the red rose might symbolize the blood shed by his fellow comrades many decades ago. He could have the rose to remember them by and to take care of.
There was an uncomfortable silence for a minute or two. I wasn't sure how this old veteran would take a stranger giving him a half dead rose. Finally, he took the rose from my hands and silently we both began to pick off the old blooms. I looked into his faded and watery old eyes and there were tears in them. For once this man was quiet. He thanked me and promised me he'd take care of the rose and he would talk to it every day. I had explained to him that talking to your plants really helps..........only I didn't say WHO it helps. After a few minutes of small talk I stood to leave.
"I want to thank you for what you did overseas to defend our country and freedom. Sir, may I give you a hug?" I reached over and gave him a hug and he thanked me again for the rose. I walked away knowing that red rose would never be neglected again.
I have the other red rose that I planted in a cute little pot. Every time I look at that rose I will think of the old war veteran and even though our meeting was brief I'll treasure that short time in the garden of my life.
Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you its only seed
It's the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It's the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes a chance
It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose
Memories of an Abundant Life * Family Ties * Flowers & Friends
Grandpas' Picture * In Rememberance * Letter to My Father
The Time of My Life * My Father * To My Husband
Sweetheart Overseas * My Dove * My Favorite Places
My Garden in Bloom * My Animal Children * No More
New Pages !!!
Christmas Gift * Pumpkin * Empty Nest * Beyond Tears * The Red Rose * Annie's Story of Great Depression *
Garden Pictures * Coming Into Manhood * I Love How You Love Me *
Time To Give Thanks * Autumn Memories * Sunset *My First Mothers' Day *
The Gift * Neighbors * Seasons of Life
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