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What I Really Know About May Flowers: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

On Mother’s Day 1958, when I was 11 years old, I crept into the kitchen early in the morning. Soon after, Bob and Lynnda, my 6-year-old twin siblings, found me. I explained that it was Mom’s special day and I, the oldest of five, was making a surprise breakfast to show her how much I loved her.

I heard the front door close and assumed they had gone out to play. When Mom came into the kitchen, I sent her to the living room to relax. I heard the front door close again and then happy exclamations from the living room. I left the kitchen and found Mom with her arms full of flowers. Before her stood the twins, gleefully handing her stalk after stalk of irises and gladiolas—her favorites.

As the entire family gathered for the breakfast I had prepared, with the centerpiece of fresh flowers dressing the table, each of us felt that this particular Mother’s Day was truly special. When we left the house a little later, nobody said a word as we noticed that every single flower bed on the block had been stripped bare.

—Fran Post, Port Townsend, Wash.

In late May 1994, my father was in the last stages of his battle with cancer and at home under hospice care. It was an exceptionally lovely spring, and the flowers were at their peak of fragrance and color. I thought the one thing that would cheer him would be to assemble a large bouquet of spring flowers like we used to enjoy each year when my parents lived on acreage east of town.

My husband and I had several varieties of irises, pink peonies and forsythias to choose from as well as a few lagging tulips. The crowning touch would be to find some French lilacs, so I called a friend and neighbor in my parents’ old neighborhood. Wilma was more than happy to supply us with some from her yard.

I sent my husband with instructions to bring back enough flowers so that we could have some for our own dining room table. He came back loaded with lilacs. Dad loved the bouquet; it brightened his day.

Later in the afternoon, I called Wilma to thank her for the lilacs and tell her how much Dad enjoyed them.

“No one ever came,” she said. “I waited here all day watching and waiting for you.”

After questioning my husband, I found out that he had cut the flowers from the yard next door to Wilma’s. He thought he knew which house she lived in, but he was wrong. We all had a good laugh about it, and I asked Wilma to apologize to the generous neighbor who donated the lilacs.

Dad got a big kick out of the lilac escapade, too.

—Jeanne Martz, Pleasant Hill, Iowa

The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online.

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