The lilacs are in full bloom here - early, as is everything this spring, but as gorgeous and aromatic as ever. For as long as I can remember, I've loved lilacs, and scent memory is a remarkable thing. My grandparents have a row next to their house, which played an important role in my play as a child. I searched in those bushes for everything from hidden Easter eggs to elusive kittens. To this day, the smell of lilac bushes in bloom makes my mind see home dyed eggs and hissing cats.
My grade school had a lilac hedge row that stretched for what seemed to be eternity to my first-grader eyes. We spent hours of recess minutes playing hide-and-seek in them, and racing on foot around them. To this day, the sight of lilac bushes makes my nerves tingle as those of a hiding child waiting to be found, and my lungs burn with sting of running at top speed in the cool air.
But more than anything these days, lilac bushes make me think of my father-in-law.
My father-in-law, Bob, is an incredible man: virtuous, hard-working, two time cancer survivor, raised an amazing man in my husband, not to mention his other children. But more importantly, he is wonderful in so many smaller ways. For example, we've only lived on our current farm for about two and a half years. At our old place, he was considerate enough to bring us two starts from their lilac bushes at the house where my husband grew up. We proudly planted those tiny baby bushes and excitedly waited for them to grow into breathtaking beauty.
When he would come to visit us at that old house, he was also kind enough to mow. It was a large yard, and we only had a push mower, so mowing would take FOREVER, and often we found that the grass had gotten on top of us. Or, more aptly, on top of our small attempts at landscaping.
One day while he was mowing, I looked out to see one of our tiny lilac starts, hidden by the lush towering grass that surrounded it, directly in his mowing path. I took off running toward him, waving my arms like a lunatic, only to let them fall limply to my sides as my mission failed and the poor little bush was sheared off by the fierce blades of the lawn mower. Needless to say, he felt awful. That lilac start never found the strength to restart, and we moved before we had a chance to replant it. Meanwhile, the other start kept growing and growing.
A few days ago, we received the news that Bob's cancer had returned yet again, and the doctors were not giving him much time. As we drove, numb with shock, down to visit them in the hospital, we passed our old house. There was the single standing lilac bush, now in bloom. A lopsided landscaping testament to efforts, successes and failures.
And tonight, we got the call that Bob had passed away.
I mowed my yard today, and through my tears I noticed a stark absence of lilacs at this new house. I imagine that is something we'll have to remedy.
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