When my father passed away, I was absent from school for about a week. When I returned, my desk was covered in cards and plants. As I began my reentry, I sat there and opened each one, appreciating the kind words, the love and the support. There was one little canvas pouch with a gift certificate to a local nursery from everyone. It was a generous gift and Billy and I went back and forth about how we could use it.
We contemplated a rose bush in honor of his favorite description of himself and his five sisters, “The rose amongst all the thorns.” he’d proclaim, at family gatherings. To which my aunt would correct him, “No Bobby, you’re the thorn amongst all the roses!” We contemplated a birch tree in honor of the tree that stood in our front yard for as long as I can remember. One year, it started to show signs of disease. He had a friend who knew trees, that friend came over and tried to work his magic and save that tree. Despite his best efforts, the tree had to go. My father planted two birch trees, where there once was one. He created a bit of an island in the front to showcase the two trees. We joked growing up that it looked like burial plot and my father would joke right back, “just bury me under the birches!”.
Billy and I contemplated the rose bush or the birch for a while. For quite a while, two and half years to be exact, we’ve contemplated this decision. On Sunday, we found ourselves heading to the nursery determined to spend. We walked over to the trees. We weaved in and out of the unplanted, yet well cared for trees. Roots masterfully wrapped in burlap. We found ourselves touching the branches, examining trunks as if we were arborists. We landed back on the very first one I saw, a “Dura Heat” River Birch. We both agreed, it was the perfect choice to plant in our front yard. The perfect tree to look at and remember. The perfect tree to make the world a little bit brighter (like he did) and the perfect tree to remember my roots.