It began on our 3rd wedding anniversary. You had the brilliant idea of giving me one long-stemmed rose for each year we were married. We were living in the little house at 1233 Main Street that we so desperately wanted as our own, but could not afford to buy. I guess you thought it would mean more to me had you began this new husbandly tradition on the first anniversary.
So, Friday, April 5, 1974, in you walked with three vases. The first vase had one long-stemmed red rose and the second vase had two of the same, but in yellow. The third vase had three pink long-stemmed roses with a pink ribbon. With that one gesture, you had sealed your anniversary fate!
Every year after, a bouquet with the proper number of roses would arrive – sometimes at our home and sometimes at my office. You always counted them to make sure the number was correct. On our 11th anniversary, the guy at Johnson’s House of Flowers thought he would do you a favor and sent me an even dozen. You were furious and immediately made them pick up the “bad” one and deliver a fresh eleven. I could have just tossed one out, but you wanted it done right.
As the anniversaries were celebrated, the bouquets grew from cute to pretty and on the 43rd anniversary – to stunning. You took such pride in picking out the right colors – always using the deep red roses as the largest amount, but later substituting 3 yellow roses for the boys and after losing Mom and Dad and Gram, three more red roses were replaced with brilliant white. And it was only roses as you came to learn later on, I hated the filler that was always put in to make a bouquet seem larger. I thought it detracted from the beauty of the rose. So florists were instructed by you, only roses and their leaves! As our family grew, there were peach roses for the daughters-in-law and white roses with a pink or a blue ribbon to designate grandchildren. Each year you would quiz me and have me point out the numbers and colors and what they stood for. One year, after a particularly heartbreaking family shake up, the roses were all red. You were trying to spare my feelings of an especially difficult time.
One of our anniversaries in Virginia, you were so very sick. Yet, you still made it to the Wegman’s and returned with the proper amount of brilliantly colored tulips. They were out of roses and you were devastated. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. The beautiful spring flowers of every hue available meant more to me than anything. On our 44th anniversary, there were no roses. You were in the hospital lying in Intensive Care and the only thing on my mind was no. Not now. A week or so later, you were home apologizing for no roses. I could not have cared less about flowers at that time. I just wanted you home again.
And now. Tomorrow would have been – no – is our 45th anniversary. We were planning on a big party. Lots of friends and family and food and conversations and grand babies running in and out of the house. But, it wasn’t meant to be. There will be no roses – not anymore. It’s not the flowers that I will miss, but the thought and care you poured into each year of making our anniversary just right. All of the years of roses (and tulips) are still in my heart. Tomorrow, April 5, 2016 I will be remembering your smiling eyes and how those 946 flowers were picked out by you – just for me.
And in my mind, there will be roses. 45 long-stemmed roses. All red, save for one in brilliant white. Happy Anniversary, honey.