Growing up the middle of five children, I was closest to my older brother, who was only 20 months my senior. While both brothers turned out to be great husbands and fathers, I still feel and live closer to Paul, my older brother, who married my high school friend Carol, so this poem that I wrote many years ago is about one early spring when I visited Paul & Carol in Providence, RI.
I hadn’t spent much time alone with my older brother Paul and his wife Carol, who is also my close high school friend, for several years. When the opportunity emerged, I grabbed it. I was attending a hunger symposium at Brown University where my brother is a professor and stayed with them during the three days of the symposium.
The weather was cold, windy and rainy—typical for early spring in Rhode Island. Thus, we were delighted to see the sun emerge from behind the clouds on my last day there. We decided to grab onto the lovely weather by visiting Blithewood Gardens and Arboretum, a 33-acre estate in nearby Bristol, to view the spring flowers and greening trees.
While we were admiring the daffodils, some still budding, we felt renewed by the warm sun and slight breeze coming from Narragansett Bay. We sat on the soft spring lawn and soaked up the sunshine: not too hot, not too cold, just right! After some relaxing time of light conversation, we walked to a huge redwood tree growing at the edge of the gardens, a gift from the Pacific Northwest, I believe, since Redwoods are not native to New England. Its magnificence was overwhelming and we marveled at one of the great wonders of Mother Nature.
Before leaving, we decided to visit the small gift shop, replete with books on gardening, lovely flowered plates, deliciously smelling soaps, and other attractive gift items. Right outside the gift shop door were small flats filled with colorful pansies ready to purchase and plant. I thought, “A perfect house gift for my visit.” My sister-in-law Carol chose purple, deep red, and flame, all gorgeously bright. We drove home with a touch of spring in the trunk.
Arriving back at their house, Carol went in to make some herbal tea while my brother and I planted the pansies right next to the short white fence in the front of their house. (Actually, my brother did all the digging, while I did all the supervising, a perfect division of labor, no?) Those quiet moments of being with my brother while putting the pansies in the ground is a mental picture I will always remember. In the last few years our being together previously had been part of large family gatherings, not conducive to quiet moments like these.
Coming at the tail end of a perfectly lovely day at Blithewood Gardens, I can only describe these moments as blissful. How many times have we heard, “Take time to smell the flowers along the way,” and merely ignore the advice. On this day I literally and figuratively did follow that advice, enjoying the flowers and my brother’s company as a bonus. Now, whenever I think of Spring, I can pull this one perfect “bouquet” of a day from my memory bank and smile.
P.S. I wrote this essay a few years ago, before my older brother contracted Parkinson’s and also a unique form of dementia. So this little visit down memory lane seems all the more poignant to me now.
Happy Father’s Day to fathers, uncles, brothers, step-fathers and anyone who loves to be a dad.