Today one of the rescued roses in my garden bloomed, we cut our last peony of the year, and my mother forgot who my father was.

*  *  *

I ‘rescued’ some roses from the discount plant section at Lowe’s, where root-bound, sawdust-filled pots of flowers that have moved past their bloom are left to die in the heat of the parking lot.  They’re 50% off, and 50% off roses is, as far as I’m concerned, a terrific deal.

And the peony was a transplant that got stashed in its pot in the backyard for a month longer than it should have, because the sewer project was digging up the backyard and I had to find new homes for all the garlic and climbing roses and lily bulbs.

So it was late to bloom, and only gave us four cabbage-flowers, but they were spectacular.

The rose is deep red, very classic, and smells wonderful.  The peony started coral pink, faded to pale pink, and is now brightening to white in its final stages on the dining room table.  My mother loves peonies.  I bought them for her.

*  *  *

She was angry and upset and frightened this morning, because she didn’t know who this man was who was asking her if she needed to use the bathroom, or if she wanted to change out of her nightgown.  Imagine!  Changing out of her nightgown in front of a stranger!

“Do you know who he is?”  I asked, pointing at my father.

She gave him a passive-aggressive side-eye and said nothing.  Her anger is sharp and devastating.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied immediately.

“Who am I?” I countered, irrationally angry at her for being angry at Dad.

She paused there, obviously stuck.  She KNEW she knew me, but she wasn’t quite sure who I actually was.  “Don’t worry about it,” I said, regretful that I had pushed the issue.  “Let’s go look at the flowers in the garden.”

My father, saddened as he always is when she forgets him, retreated to his office to write, and I helped my mother change into clothes, and we wandered through the neighborhood, looking at trees and flowers and enjoying the sunshine.

By the time we got back and had an early lunch, she was content to sit and watch TV with me.  Her mood can change from panicked to angry to tearful to laughing in mere seconds.  It is wildly disconcerting.  It is exhausting.

When Dad came back inside she looked up and smiled at him, clearly fully aware of who he was.

“Do you remember who I am?” he asked her.

“Yes I do, Mr. Phillips,” she replied.

“Oh, good,” said my father, and kissed her.  “You forgot me for a little bit this morning.  I was worried you’d confused me for one of your other husbands.”

“Well, I mean, I have so MANY,” she said, and laughed.

*  *  *

This evening, after I helped my mother brush her teeth and change into her pajamas and tucked her into bed – because these are things she can no longer do for herself – I loaded the dishwasher and changed my shirt and drove back over to Lowe’s, and spent a long time wandering through the discounted plant section.  

50% off mostly dead annuals isn’t good for much except priming a compost heap, but 50% of perennials is a different matter.  I bought four more.  At this point, I’m not buying the flower, I’m not buying the show, the display in the window.

I’m buying a plant that will be need to be de-potted, soaked overnight, hard pruned, roots trimmed, fed and manured and repotted and soaked and drained again, and will likely not flower again this year.

But it might next year.

So I suppose I’m buying something that – no matter what the next year brings to our family – has a chance to grow, and be beautiful, and live.

John William Waterhouse, c. 1908, a study for “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”