Valentine Roses

A few rose-related snapshots, leading you down the meandering path I’ve been following this week:

1. My mother and sister grow roses in their gardens, and over the years have picked up quite a bit of knowledge about them. I, on the other hand, love roses without understanding them at all. The wilder and more old-fashioned, the better. (Unless you plan to send me a bouquet of cut roses – then make them yellow tea roses, if possible – a preference I developed in college which I no longer remember the reason for.)

2. One year, a student organization on our campus was selling singing telegrams for Valentine’s Day. For a dollar, one could select from a group of four or five “love” songs, and the students would go to your friend’s room or office and sing it – along with a spoken message from you, the sender. My friend, Al, sent a telegram to my office: he picked “The Rose” for them to sing. He thought it was the cheesiest option and that I would laugh at it. Instead, I cried. In case you missed it, THEY SANG “THE ROSE” to me ON VALENTINE’S DAY. In my office. Duh. Any self-respecting woman of my generation would have done the same.

3. My maternal grandmother’s name was Rose. And while there aren’t many in my generation named after her, the next generation is a garden of Roses: Atalie Rose, Abi Rose, Aubrey Rose, Zoe Rose. All of them named after a grandmother beloved, but unknown, to them.

So, what led to these meandering thoughts about roses and my grandmother, Rose? One of the “joys” of having what appears to be a genetic predisposition to certain cancers, is the extensive family history taken, then distributed among family  members (in our case, mothers, sisters, cousins – women related via the maternal line). I received a copy of this family history in the mail the other day, from my sister Chris. And I’ve been thinking about all these Roses ever since.

My grandmother, Rose Postel, died in 1965, days after the birth of my sister, Gwen. Gwen, our blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauty – the only one in a family sea of brunettes with dark eyes. Family lore is that Grandma always wanted a blonde grandchild, and that this was the final wish granted in her too-short life. I was four when Grandma died, she was 50.

Maybe there are those among you who think fifty years isn’t that short, as lifetimes go. Rose lived to see her children grown, married, starting families of their own. On the other hand, she only met half of her grandchildren, and the oldest was only five when she passed away. I don’t know what my sister remembers, but I only have one memory of Rose that I am sure is authentic (she is stirring up a batch of peanut butter cookies in her kitchen; they’re my favorite). But I do remember my mom, overwhelmed by her life with six kids, living with her widower father, being alternately sad and angry that her mother wasn’t there. I think I would have liked Rose, my dad says she had a keen eye and a sharp wit. Is it strange to say I miss her, when I barely knew her so long ago?

As I’m sure you’ve deduced, the fact that I turned 50 this year myself impacts my own perspective. I think of all the things I still hope to achieve and experience in my life – no longer the youthful yearning to have a meteoric impact on the planet – rather, the desire to live my own life as fully, as deeply, as possible. And I think of  this garden of young roses – Atalie, Abi, Aubrey, Zoe…and their sisters and cousins. And I want to say to them: “Don’t hold back.” “Don’t let anyone (especially yourself) make you be smaller than you are.” Do. Be. Love. Live. So that at any age, you can say, “I’ve really lived my life.”

Because there are no guarantees. 30, 50, 60 – even if we hit the jackpot and live to 100 – we never know how many years we will have. But we do know we have today. Cancer sucks. But the only way to truly beat it – and/or all the other life-sucking things we might encounter –  is to fully inhabit our lives, each day we are graced enough to wake up to them.

8 thoughts on “Valentine Roses

  1. I know it’s cheesey, but for the record, some men of your generation get chocked up at “The Rose.” This particular song, by this particular sing, was “the song” for Audrey and me, and still is. And my other always loved roses, which is one reason, even though in this climate it’s a bit dicey, that I have plenty of roses in my gardens. Beaty with thorns–a nice analogy for life in some way.

    1. I think music can be so powerful, and it clearly powerfully affects you, Joe! I can totally picture you and Audrey slow-dancing to “The Rose”!

  2. awesome post as always Jen – and of course you would get choked up by someone singing “The Rose” – I feel the same way about Grandma Rose – I never even met her and she passed away before I was born – but have always been proud to share her name! Stephanie Rose!

    1. I wanted to mention you specifically, but I had to edit it – too many names, I didn’t want it to get confusing. But you knew I meant you when I said not many in our generation (it meant someone – YOU!). Love your name, beautiful just like you, Stephanie Rose!

  3. Awesome, Jen! I love this post because I can relate in so many ways. My dad died when he was 52 which I think is VERY short! Katie was 8, Haley, 1 but I try to make sure I do whatever I can to make sure they remember him. Cancer does suck – big time!

    My paternal grandmother’s name was Rose.

    And I love your analagy that the only way to beat the things that suck in life is to “Do. Be. Love. Live.” Thank you again for putting things into perspective!

    Love ya!

    1. Love you right back, Tammy! I really enjoy responses when people share their own stories or when something I wrote stirs up something in your heart! Feel free to share whenever! I know how much you miss your dad – I think 52 is young 🙂

  4. By the way, I was commenting while students in a lab were working on new blogs, so I demonstrated how you should not post while distracted–my “mother,” not “other,” loved roses. And it’s this song by this particular “singer.” Ah well.

    1. Joe, you know the mind provides the correct words/spellings if the meaning is clear! I didn’t even notice the distracted typing the first time around!

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