, , ,

I was not depressed but I bought a small cactus anyway.

My friend was really struggling because her roommate had moved out. The loneliness in her apartment was suffocating. She could barely breathe with the weight of depression pressing down on her. I went over to help her pack up her apartment. She was moving back to her family in SLC. I scored some household items and some advice. Her sister suggested she buy a plant to care for. It would do her good to watch something live.

The next time I was at Wal-Mart (because there aren’t many shopping choices in Southern Utah) I bought a cactus. It had a red part that looked like a flower but was as spiky as the rest of the plant. A cactus seemed to be a safe choice because it wouldn’t require much water.

I mothered that thing including bringing it with me every time I rode home to Salt Lake for a weekend. It lost a lot of dirt with the back and forth trips. The cactus seemed fine but eventually I got bored of the project. I didn’t need to see something live the way Dani did. So I threw my cactus away. Maybe it was herbicide. I don’t know. It didn’t hurt my feelings to not have my little cactus in the window anymore. It’s possible I gave the cactus a name but I don’t even remember it now.

Moving out of a student singles ward after graduation meant moving into a family ward. Family wards mean Mother’s Day gifts for all adult women, regardless of marital status. Every year I was given a potted flower against my will. Every year I killed the poor thing. Except for the year I gave my marigold to my friend across the street.

Becca lovingly planted it in her front yard with other marigolds. She called my contribution her Tristan Flower and claimed it thrived better than all the other marigolds. She couldn’t thank me enough for giving her my plant! Better her taking care of the thing than me.

The Primary President became the proud owner of boxes and boxes of flowers planted in plastic party cups. I didn’t understand how she came to adopt these flowers but she thought it would be nice to give them out to the Primary kids. Like every other Primary handout, the flowers came to my family in triplicate. Because neglecting one plant isn’t enough. I should be responsible for the savage death of three flowers!

They baked to death on the picnic table in the gazebo. They were attracting bugs in the house so I put them outside. Out of sight out of mind. Even the kids forgot to care. I don’t even want to think of the number of plants I have killed in my lifetime. Once you become a serial plant murderer you stop counting.

Which is why it is so alarming that I have a plant in my house that refuses to die. Its will to live is commendable. I don’t really know how to feel about this plant or the fact that I have had it for nearly a year.

It was delivered by a flower store to my father’s memorial service. My sister in law told me to take the basket of flowers home with me. I wasn’t so sure since we were driving from Utah to California. The flowers were sure to die en route. Amazingly enough they weren’t in too bad of shape when we got home. Even after spending the night in Winnemucca.

A day or two later the flowers were definitely wilting. As each type of flower bit the dust I would pull it out to toss. That’s when I realized they had been planted in these tiny plastic tubes. The tubes of water had dried up thus killing the flowers. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know what to do with those tubes. I couldn’t see how to fill them with water and the flowers were sad and droopy. Deader than dead. I had no problem chucking them.

That’s the nice part of flowers. They don’t last forever. I enjoy them for a week and when they can’t seem to hold their heads up anymore, drying up and shriveling into a floral mess, I happily throw them out. My only responsibility was to enjoy their loveliness for a few days until they pooped out. I had nothing to do with their death. Someone else cut them from the plant that would keep them alive. I get to watch their severed heads die a slow, beautiful death.

It didn’t take long to pull out every flower in the arrangement. I assumed I was done. What a shame they came in a lovely basket I don’t know what to do with. But I was done. The flowers were gone and so was any attachment I had to the arrangement. Right?

Wrong! Once all the flowers were gone it was easier to see the card that came with the basket. Not the card from the people who sent the flowers in memory of my dad. I kept that in a special place as soon as we got home. I mean the card that explains how to take care of the plant. The flowers were clearly put in just to dress up the plant for the sad occasion. They were not meant to last.

I have never had flowers given to me at a funeral before. I felt an obligation to at least try to take care of the plant. It doesn’t need much water though. I would put the basket under the faucet for a drink and not need to repeat the process for a couple months. Unfortunately several months went by. I’m not a plant person! My thumb is not green.

For several weeks in a row I would look at the leaves wilting and drying up. I thought I needed to water that poor plant. But I never seemed to do it. Part of me wanted to be done with the plant and part of me felt overwhelming guilt for daring to think that way. It’s not Dad, I would tell myself. I’m not killing him. If I get rid of the plant it doesn’t mean I love him any less. Guilt still stared back at me from the plant.

Finally I picked up the basket and walked it the twenty feet or so to the sink to give it a drink. How hard was that? I don’t know. It’s amazing how difficult depression makes the simplest of tasks. Some days getting off the couch is more than I have the energy for.

Instead of thanking me, the leaves drooped to the floor. The plant looked stoically brave before in its desert oasis. Dying but dying with dignity. Now that I gave it water the leaves gave up. Just dropped down as low as they could go as if they were saying there is no point in living. Whatever. I was kind of annoyed. Stupid plant that makes me feel so guilty. It could go in the trash once and for all in the morning. Taking it outside for proper disposal was too much effort that night.

The next morning I glanced at the plant and noticed something was very different. The leaves had picked themselves up higher than they have been in months. What? Where were the pathetic floor crawlers tugging at my heartstrings? I guess it was a new day with a new lease on life. Those leaves resurrected themselves. Guess I still have a plant to take care of.

As I mentioned before, this plant doesn’t need much water. A quick trip to the faucet and it’s good to go for a couple months. Today the leaves were still waving proudly like the American flag on the 4th of July. I put my finger on the soil expecting it to still be wet. It’s only been a couple days since I gave the plant so much water I thought I drowned it. The soil was dry as a bone.

Seriously? Now what? Guess I still have a plant to take care of. So I sprayed it with the spray bottle. For now it feels like a battle of wills. I’m not actively trying to kill this plant. I’m not actively paying much attention to it either. It refuses to die. I don’t want to feel obligated to care for this plant because it reminds me of my dad. I guess I can give it water occasionally. I really didn’t expect it to last this long. Yet here it is. The little plant that could.

I don’t know what it means. I don’t want it to mean anything. For now I will still water it when I think about it. We’ll see what happens.