There's a plant downstairs trying to cope with the harsh reality of having me as it's owner.
Jen's garage was full of memorial wreaths, flowers, and other varied flora and fauna after Kyle's funeral. Her brother and dad, I hear, are experts at the botanical sciences, so they took several. She also kept quite a few for herself and gave the rest away. She offered one to me and I enthusiastically leapt at the opportunity to be a first time plant owner. Like the rest of us, I was clinging to the hope that if I just did this or that, then perhaps things would be alright. My adoption of the plant was a valiant statement that Kyle's memory would remain with me and grow and flourish, enriching my life for years to come.
A month later it was on it's deathbed, so I gave it over to foster care. Pat, my coworker DESCRIBED IN THIS POST, was the doctor assigned to the case. As always, she was blunt-- "That thing is going to die. Oh, hell, I'll see what I can do." So she took it home, cared for it, probably cursed it (and me) on a daily basis, and brought it back to life. Resurrected, if a little incomplete. Several of the shoots were destroyed beyond repair. Actually, all but one were. The plant I received back was one long stem with a couple dozen healthy leaves flowering out.
I'm trying to be diligent. I really am. I water it every two or three days and have it by the window where the sun can get to it. But it's just hanging on. The other day I decided I'd put it outside. That's what it needed, I told myself, fresh air. Still, it's just holding on.
And then tonight came. Thunderstorm. On my way home from work I remembered the plant was in the front yard and felt like a failure. I'm serious, it hit me hard. I actually believed I was being a horrible friend to Kyle because the least I could have done was to take care of that damn thing that was entrusted to me, but I couldn't do that. It's insane, I know, but it's what I felt.
If I were a more skilled writer, I could give you a better and less cliche' metaphor for friendship than taking care of a plant. But I'm not, so I can't.
They both seem easy enough. Water, sun, soil= Good conversation, speaking into each other's lives, time near each other. It should be that simple. But no. Not only do you have to have the right ingredients, but they have to be applied in very specific proportions relative to the individual (or the plant.) The windows of opportunity can be painfully small. The wrong words can inflict damage, as can the right words spoken at the wrong time. It's enough to drive you crazy.
I've never claimed to be good with plant life, but I always believed myself to be a pro at the friendship thing. Sometimes, though, I'm not so sure. I can be equally healing AND hurtful, thoughtful AND inconsiderate. The dark side can be painful, because as much as I love my solitude, I live for the small group of people I call "friends." So when I feel I've hurt someone, either by deliberate action or careless neglect, I literally fear for my life, believing I'm losing a piece of myself.
I raise my glass to many things, but none higher and heartier than to those I love. So here's to the dance of friendship-- sometimes clumsy, often ugly, but always the conduit through which grace generously flows.