By Dave Hood
Every day, the elderly woman would read the obituaries in the Toronto Star newspaper to see if any old friends or acquaintances had died. After reading, she would think to herself: It’s a good day, as my name is not in the newspaper. And then she would water the indoor flowers throughout the cavernous, creaky, empty house. Some days, she would read about gardening or view photographs of her spring garden, taken by her grandchildren.
Throughout the autumn and winter months, the elderly woman spend her days inside in the big house, which was owned by her self-absorbed son who was always too busy making money during the day and too distracted playing golf on weekends. She rarely saw him or talked to him.
In late March, as the snow melted away, after a long winter, spent indoors by herself, the elderly woman would begin to look forward to planting and tending to her garden, especially the spring flowers, which she provided her with endless pleasure in springtime.
In early May, when the warm weather and sunny skies of springtime arrived, the elderly woman, who always wore a black dress and hobbled with a cane, would plant her favorite flowers in the garden with her right hand: daffodils, tulips, daisies, roses. She was unable to use her left hand because of a stroke, which had left her right hand weakened. Then, with a green watering can, she would water these flowers at dawn, noon, and dusk, until they blossomed into yellow, blue, and red delights of springtime.
The daffodils gave her joy, as though she was reliving her youthful years. The tulips reminded her of a time, many years ago, when her son would honour Mother’s Day. The daisies provided her with a sense of purpose, as though she was a gardener taking care of an estate. The red roses, her favorite flower, always reminded the elderly woman of her first love to a tall, dark haired, muscular young man, who would later die in a car crash, during the roaring twenties. She also believed flowers conveyed hope that her life would bloom again in the next life.
For many years, during the spring and summer months, the elderly kept a flower garden. When she was not gardening or watering the flowers, she would spend most summer days relaxing on a Muskoka chair, under the shade of her umbrella, sipping lemonade, enjoying the warm weather and sunshine, and admiring her flowers in the garden.
Sometimes, the dog would dig up the flowers, or a stranger would pick a few, or the spring rains would wash the flowers away. Instead of becoming disappointed, the elderly woman would plant more flowers.
And whenever a neighbor or friend came to visit, which was as rare occasion, the elderly woman would become alert and excited, like a child, rise out of her chair, show visitors her garden, and talk and talk about her marvelous daffodils, tulips, daisies, and roses, the flowers that provided joy and hope, purpose, and meaning during the springtime.
On Sunday night’s, the elderly woman’s middle-aged daughter would always call from Calgary to say hello, checkup on her, tell her what was going on in the lives of her grandchildren, sometimes venting about her stressful job as a sales representative for an upstart information technology firm. The elderly woman would listen, and then she would talk about gardening and the flowers in her garden.
On one particular summer’s day, without warning, in the heat of the summer, all the flowers wilted and died, like her oldest and best friend who passed away the year before. Saddened, filled with despair, the elderly woman stopped tending to her garden, returned to her bedroom in the dreary, vacant house.
For the remainder of the summer, and all through the autumn, and into December, the elderly woman would spend all her time in her bedroom, alone, watching soap operas, reality shows, and sporting events on TV. She would often be slouched in her beige lazy boy, a gift from her late husband, throughout the day. She usually fell asleep in the lazy boy with the TV on at night. She rarely went outside her bedroom, except to make a trip to the bathroom or eat a meal, which were delivered by Meals on Wheels. She would always eat tuna sandwiches for lunch and a hot meal or turkey plate for dinner.
On one particular Sunday, on a wintry night, as she always did, the daughter called to say hello. But there was no answer on the phone. The elderly woman didn’t feel like talking.
A few days later, on a cold, cloudy day in January, as the snow fell silently in the garden, the elderly woman, who was sitting in the lazy boy, watching TV, shut her eyes and began to daydream of the flowers of springtime, and then she died.
Next evening, after a request from his sister, the son decided to check up on his elderly mother. He hopped in his BMW, drove across the city, knocked on the front door of his mother’s home, but there was no answer. So he went around back and peered through the den window. He saw the television on and his mother slouched in her lazy boy chair, clasping a withered yellow tulip.
He began to weep.