Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ron's Bush



Years ago, I purchased or was given a shrub that I planted outside the bay window of my house in the woods of Orange County, North Carolina. I learned that is was from the rose family and that it was a double-flowering kerria. With spindly green spikes and bright yellow flowers, it stood out in the edge of the woods behind my house.

My friend Donald came to visit one spring when the plant was blooming and he fell in love with it. He dug a sprig to take to his home in Washington, DC. Apparently, it flourished in his yard, unlike at my place, and he was able to propagate another sprig or two to take to his vacation home on Parker Street in Onancock, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore. It thrived there too. For years, it grew, and then about 2 summers ago, I went to visit Donald and was stunned at the beauty of the plant right by the entrance to his vacation home. It was a full shrub, not a spindly-looking bunch of green sprigs as it had always been at my home.

When Donald died last August, our group of friends made plans to hold a memorial service at his home in Onancock. We all drove in from our various homes in Washington, DC, or Northern Virginia, or Wilmington and Durham, NC or Wilmington, Delaware. Many of the people whom I had hoped to see didn’t come, but some that I had not seen in a dozen or so years were there and the reunions with them were bittersweet. We cleaned his home, we unloaded Bonnie’s van to find that, as usual, she had brought enough food for about 50 people even though only about a dozen of us were there, and we set out the food for those who would be arriving later.

It was quite cold that evening, and many of us gathered inside the living room to reminisce about the various adventures we had shared with Donald. People pulled out their old photographs and Bonnie’s laptop was flipping through a slide-show of photos of his life from the time he was living in Wilmington, NC until he was back in Raleigh to finish up his visit in our lives.

Meanwhile, another group of people, the cigarette smokers, were outside having as many cocktails as they wanted, for this was Donald’s last party. Several hours passed and the outside party grew a little rowdier. At one point, the door flew open and a couple of the people outside came laughing into the house. One of them announced, "T* just fell off the porch into Ron’s Bush!" This brought a great deal of laughter to the room and a bit of rosy-cheek embarrassment to me. I then learned that Donald had never been able to remember the name of the shrub, so every time someone remarked on its beauty, he referred to it as "My friend Ron’s bush." Apparently, it became quite a joke among the people who visited frequently from Washington.

I had talked with folks earlier that evening about how I no longer had any of that shrub and that when I had visited Donald the summer before, he had offered to let me take some of it. It was raining when I started to leave and I had been unable to obtain any of the sprigs to transplant to my new home in Durham. We agreed that I would take some of it the following day before I left for home.

When the following day began and we were having our coffee, we learned that T* not only had fallen off the porch into my bush, but that he had then started making the equivalent of snow angels while he was prostrate. Someone made a comment that offended him and he jumped up and proceeded to stomp any of the remaining shrub to bits. Later, when his was walking home, he complained of ankle pain. After he was driven to the hospital, he learned that he had broken his ankle during his adventures in my bush. Meanwhile, my bush was a mess! When I left Onancock for the last time, I did not bring any of the shrub with me.

However, last weekend, my friend Ben hosted an Evening With Friends event at his parent's home. At these parties, the host prepares a meal and invites friends who then make donations to Evening with Friends to support their efforts in sustaining people living with AIDS. I arrived at Ben's home and looked outside to find a "Ron’s bush" blooming in Ben’s backyard. I told him the story of my bush and he offered me a sprig for my new home.

Today, I met Ben at his home and found a sprig that seemed happy to come home with me to Durham. I made the transplant today. It is not a particularly large shrub at this time, but in a few years, my bush will be the envy of Durham!

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