(A lesson in courage, grief, and hope)
My Grandma gave this plant to my Aunt Rose after she was married and where she lived in Winter, Wisconsin. Flash forward a bit (okay, quite a bit) to 1975 when my Aunt Rose gave the plant to her son and daughter in-law. She in turn had it for a number of years when she met my Dad who, being 'semi-retired' was working part-time as a janitor at the local Catholic school. She was by then divorced from my cousin and told my Dad "I've got something that you might like to have", and related the story of this plant. Well, he of course was glad to have it and took it to home with him......
Another blip forward in time...my mother had just passed away which left my Dad living alone at their house in the country. At the age of 91 he was having a bit of trouble walking but other than that was still very sharp. Before she passed, Mum told (didn't ask) told me to "Promise you'll take care of your father" well of course I would. You see, Pa didn't want to go into a nursing home and in fact, wanted to die at home as well. Did I have reservations? Of course I did, I've never taken care of anyone at that level before, but I was glad to do it. You see, my Dad gave his all to his family, worked two jobs all of his life (one job, ironically, was at the paper mill my Grandpa lost his eye at) and never ever complained. Which was no small feat considering his other 'job' was running our 35 head dairy farm and that there five of us little ankle biters running around.
Dad was totally loyal and full of love for his wife and children..He (other than smoking a pipe) had no vices...he wasn't a drunkard, never gambled (other than farming which is always a gamble) and never was abusive to his wife or to his kids. He loved the outdoors..boy did he ever! Fishing and hunting Whitetail deer..he taught me so very much about both of these sports and instilled in me that love of the outdoors I have to this day. He and his other 7 brothers basically 'lived off the land' way before Mother Earth News...but I digress.
I took care of Dad 7 days a week but being divorced with my children grown and on their own I was able to do this...and what a labor of love! Dad was the greatest conversationalist I have ever met. When someone would come to visit, he would drop what he was doing and was genuinely interested in what they had to tell ....for 359 days I stayed with you Dad and then God finally called you home to him...you were my friend and my companion...oh God how I miss you!! Maybe this is what they call 'closure'? I know not…all I know of is the terrible grief I still have and how parts of my life seem so very empty now.....
This Christmas cactus, for the entire time I lived and took care of my Dad, never had much more than one flower at a time and most of the time none. After his passing away, this plant has done nothing but bloom flowers again and again…I like to think that Dad is up there and that this is his way of telling me...that it's okay...and not to be lonely without him.
So to you my Friends, I wish you peace and contentment always....
Your 'Friend in Shavings',
Bernard John Hoeft
Born July 6, 1920
Died December 10, 2012