In frustration with all the roses in my yard I once wrote an article titled “Roses have thorns — and thorns have roses.” It sprang from a quote by writer and novelist Alphonse Kerr, who observed, "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses."
As a beleaguered gardener, I wrote, “My yard is filled with roses. Now, during the third summer learning curve for tending to them, I bear scars on my arms and legs from trying to figure out their perfidious nature.”
Today I stood looking around my yard, now sadly devoid of many of those beautiful plants. One by one they expired, likely because the trees and bushes surrounding them deprived them of the sunlight they needed to thrive.
Whatever the cause, only a few remain to waft the air with their perfume this June. It is a great life lesson to deal with the thorns because at least there are roses.
As I stood looking, I had mixed feelings about the plight of those roses. It was actually a relief I didn’t need to prune them and feed them and chase away the aphids, but on the other hand I was sad to miss their beauty.
Life is like growing roses. If you don’t plant you won’t reap, if you don’t tend to responsibilities they may fade on you. Some varieties are hardier than others, and even among the same varieties there will be differences. Part of their success and beauty will be where they are planted.
Well, I do go on — parallels everywhere.
In that way, raising roses is a lot like raising children. There is a lot of work involved and frustration with how they progress. They sometimes resist our help and may attempt to thwart our involvement, but once they leave, their daily contact in our lives is greatly missed.
We show them off when they are really blooming and despair when they aren’t thriving.
I wish I had made a plaque of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote for when my children misbehaved: What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.
And that is the job of a parent to help tame their “weeds” and turn them into roses.
Which brings to mind raising our son, Jim. He was much younger than his other four siblings, and their beloved walking talking toy. One year when his virtues were less evident, we sent him out to live with his sister and four brothers who handed him off to each other.
With that summer shared with his siblings, some pruning done by caring teachers and coaches, and finally an inspirational LDS mission president, Jim’s virtues finally became evident.
Next month, we will be visiting him and his wife, Shamberlin, and their three little boys because Jim is graduating from his dermatology residency. The joy we feel having watched them together achieve this goal is beyond words. On top of that Jim has been given a one-year fellowship in Mohs surgery right there in Michigan, so they do not need to uproot their family until they decide on a fertile spot to plant themselves.
I have been very vocal as to just where that spot should be. Nevertheless it is their future. My days as chief gardener of my children’s lives have been over for quite some time.
“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever,” advised British actor Richard Briers, so wherever they go I likely will pop in from time to time to help tame their weeds, brave the thorns and tend to their roses.