Garden of Discovery

As Heather and I watched, Missy’s paintbrush reached for spring colors. Pink. Green. Light blue.

It had been a while since she’d worked with her acrylics, but her style hadn’t changed. One piece of paper might have just a few spots of color. Another would hold multi-hued streaks, suggesting her mood but not anything concrete.

But on some – as always – her streaks and whorls began to take shape. This time, the swirls of pink and shapes of green couldn’t be anything else.

Missy had painted a rose. Her mom’s favorite flower, still growing around the yard long after she’d gone.

It couldn’t have fit better. Especially since Valerie had left in one April … and Heather and I had arrived in another.

***

Eleven years ago, we moved in with Missy.

I’ll say it louder: ELEVEN YEARS AGO, WE MOVED …

Oh, I know you heard me. It just hadn’t quite sunk in for me yet.

If you’re new here, Missy is my wife’s developmentally disabled aunt. She’s also the frequent star of these columns by popular demand. We became an indelible part of each other’s lives in 2011 when Heather and I moved in to become her guardians and caregivers.

At the time, none of the three of us had any idea what we were getting into. We still don’t. But it’s been an amazing adventure finding out.

I’ll admit it. When we first came, my mind was mostly full of challenges. We’d never even been parents, never mind tried something like this. Missy and Heather knew each other well – they’d pretty much grown up together – but I was a newer quantity, mostly remembered from holidays and brief visits.

I wasn’t wrong. There were challenges waiting. But so much more waited for all of us as well.

Like bedtime reading sessions where she’d cheer the destruction of Voldemort and ask with worry about Gandalf.

Or visits to a downtown festival where Missy seemed to recognize and wave to everyone. “Hi, you!”

Not to mention summer softball games, morning and afternoon cups of tea, and occasional ambushes with a well-thrown stuffed animal.

We’d begun to learn each other. as surely as we were learning Missy’s vocabulary. (“Book = book or purse,  “up, up,” = “I need help with something” and  “Uh-oh!” ALWAYS means “Look what sneaky thing I did now!”) Even more, we were growing into each other like the best families do.

Or like roses for that matter.

A little wild sometimes. Not without thorns. But a lot hardier than anyone would guess, with a beauty that keeps popping up season after season.

***

We’re framing the rose. It’ll stay something for Missy to be proud of. And for all of us to remember by.

After all, roses should be celebrated.

I hope you celebrate your own, thorns and all. Sure, roses are demanding. Even exhausting at times. They require a lot of care and attention to help them flourish.

But when the beauty comes … well, it’s just blooming wonderful.

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