The Family Spy

Dress Rehearsal
I am alone in my in-laws’ house, rummaging through cabinets. In the garage I find the necessary tool: Dad’s rose pruners.  I will need them to complete my mission.
The night before my plan had been to purchase a compact, tidy bouquet to take to my mother-in-law’s hospital room. In the morning, early, her doctor phones us with the happy conclusion that she has not suffered any major damage; a tiny bleed in her brain has irritated it, but she will recover. My husband and his father wipe their eyes. Seated between them, I lean a bit into each of them, as if I’m seeking comfort rather than offering it. We all three grab phones, scattering the good news among the many siblings and grandchildren. Then they set off to bring her home.
I shed grateful tears of thanksgiving alone, after the menfolk have set off to retrieve our treasure from the hospital.
I drive to the flower stand and select an exuberant heap of flowers: hot pink roses, and more roses, white with pink margins on the petals. More roses are never a mistake. I choose gerbera daisies, effusively round and pink; stargazer lilies for their architecture and fragrance; a single stalk of tuberose, for stature and more sweetness; stock, deep purple like vestments, or the sweater we gave her last Christmas; lavender spider mums, to make the other colors play nicely together. Yes, I tell the flower girl, I want greenery. Lemon leaf? Myrtle? I’ll take some of both. Oh—and yes, waxflower, please, for its giddy sweetness.
Returning to their home, I slip in through the garage, stealthy, as if I don’t belong. There’s the enormous glass vase Mom loves. I rinse it and fill it, then heave it to the kitchen counter. I unwrap the flowers and greens, trimming with the pilfered pruners and tucking until I’m satisfied with their composition. I write a card: “Welcome home, Beth! Love, Everyone.” I haul the vase—two-hand heavy—to the glass-topped coffee table in the family room and place it there, as this family is a family-room family. We gather here; the flowers, her trophy for being well enough to come back home, to us, belong here. The waxflower droops to the sides more than I’d hoped, but otherwise I’m satisfied with my efforts.
My husband texts me, asks for his uncle’s phone number in Wyoming, tells me where I’ll find the address book. I locate the book, turn to the “P”s. I text back the requested number. Returning to the book, I see notes beneath names and numbers, describing the relationship: “Mary Smith, cousin—Dad’s side.”
And I am thinking those notes will help. This trip was not the trip, but the day will come: We will travel here, as we did late last night. We’ll choose funeral flowers instead of happy-day flowers. There will be grieving, and phone calls: phone calls go with grieving.
I hope that day is far, far, far in our future. I don’t ever want to say “so long” to this wonderful woman who reared my amazing husband and welcomed me into the family as one of her own.
I put away the address book, remembering where I can find it again. I return the pruners, clean and dry, to Dad’s workbench in the garage. My mission is complete.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5 (NASB)

Leave a Comment