I was supposed to be at a memorial service.
My great aunt passed away this year– the one who tried to rescue a family of blacksnakes from a hole in the plaster. They held her memorial service in Yellow Springs this weekend and I wanted to attend. The circumstances came together so that I could: one friend generously got me a hotel room in Columbus, so I wouldn’t have to drive all the way there and back in one day. And just after that, another friend asked me to dog-sit for her in Columbus, starting the afternoon after the memorial service. I’d have a hotel for one night and then free room and board for a few days and even get paid a bit, all for the privilege of playing with a dog.
I was in my living room packing, when I got a cruel direct message from one of my relatives who wanted to embarrass me as much as she could. I still don’t know if she found out I was going to the funeral and was trying to dissuade me from coming, or if she presumed I wasn’t coming and wanted to chide me for that, or if the timing was a coincidence.
I didn’t know what to say to the missive. I never know how to respond to my family. So I said “thanks for letting me know,” which was the wrong answer. Anything I said would have been the wrong answer. Every possible answer is wrong when people don’t believe the things you tell them, hate your husband, hate your sexual orientation, hate the way you interpret and practice your religion, and hate other things about you which they’ve imagined. That’s why I don’t talk to them.
I couldn’t sleep well that night. I can never sleep after a note from my family.
Somehow or other, twenty-four hours later, I was in Columbus for the first time in thirteen years.
I was supposed to leave Michael and Rosie playing with the dog for a little while, and go the rest of the way to Yellow Springs for the memorial service. But I was exhausted. I’d had two hours sleep in a noisy hotel after a drive that was supposed to take two and a half hours but took four because I’m a new driver and ended up on High Street during rush hour.
If I went to the memorial service, I’d probably spoil my other relatives’ time with my presence. If I did not go, it would be yet another mark against me in their book.
Damned if I did and damned if I didn’t, so I decided to be damned in Columbus instead of Yellow Springs.
I went to the Park of Roses.
If you’ve never been to Columbus, you must go there once in your life, and you must visit the Park of Roses. It’s a big sprawling flower garden open to the public with, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. There are hundreds of varieties of roses there, an herb garden, a perennial garden, a fountain. I used to run around there as a little girl, pretending that I was a powerful warrior queen with an army at my beck and call and the Park of Roses was my private courtyard.
The roses have peaked this time of year. I walked on the soft grass between leafy thorn bushes each studded with a colorful rose or two. The roses looked all the more miraculous for being much fewer and further between– little bright splashes of color in the dry green. Coral. Soft pink. Lavender. Magenta. Gold.
The herb garden was raggedy and beginning to tire out, but it smelled absolutely glorious– every conceivable flavor of mint, the ticklish scent of basil, the perfume of rosemary.
The fountain hadn’t yet been shut off for the year. A gust of wind sent a glimmering cloud of mist dancing through the air.
I climbed to the top of the wrought iron observation tower. The garden stretched out before me in all directions, still alive but falling asleep for the year.
I felt grief deeper than I have for the longest time. But I also had an odd sense of peace, as if the powerful queen I used to be had won a victory in her old age. I don’t know what that victory is.
Cicadas trilled in the nearby trees.
It will be Autumn soon.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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