Since the bluebells are now out in force I thought it was an appropriate time to show this short story again
The Bluebell Woods
Picking bluebells is the reason I’m here in the woods. The sun is hot for the time of year but very welcome. The birds are twittering all around but they’re too high up for me to identify. I really should have learned the different birdsongs. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t had the opportunity. I’d spent five years walking my retriever across fields and through the forest, watching him dive-bomb the bushes looking for rabbits or wading into streams looking for fish. I’m sure he knew every blade of grass; I could have learned the birdsongs while he did that if I hadn’t been so lazy.
Bluebells were Dad’s favourite wild flower and each anniversary of his death I took a bunch of them to his grave. I remember him joking about it on his sick bed, saying he wanted to die at the right time so they could be placed on his coffin. So you can understand why I just have to do it.
Dad always maintained he hated weeds yet when I reminded him that bluebells were weeds and that he’d never planted one in his life he argued, saying bluebells were not weeds. Weeds, he retorted, were simply flowers that nobody wants. Naturally I had a go back but it was really only in fun.
‘Don’t argue with your father, Susan,’ Mom had said, as if I was a five year old. She could never take our baiting as a joke thing. If I was to take situations seriously at that awful time I would have sobbed all over Dad’s clean sheets.
Emphysema was an ugly disease. And heartbreaking. Dad tried very hard to keep a smile in place but you could see how hard it was. He’d suffered for a long time and towards the end he hadn’t the strength to get out of bed. Dennis and I went to see him as often as we could although it was quite hard for my better half to see a once hearty man so frail.
There was a lot to think about as I walked along the rough path, through the forest of tall trees to the little glade where the bluebells would be widespread. I stepped over the tiny bubbling stream that meandered through the woods that led to the lake. I’d been coming here for ten years now, ten years since Dad died. That was when my sun had gone in.
Why him? That was the question I often asked. And why me? What did I do to warrant losing my very best friend. Oh what memories that statement evokes! Happy days, happy years! We only ever fell out once and that was so awful we vowed we’d never argue over differences again. If it wasn’t for him, though, I’d have left home years before I actually did.
Marriage took me away. Marriage to a man so like my Dad in many ways. Dennis was the one who discovered the bluebells in the wood. He had an eye for flora and fauna, had Dennis. Just like my Dad. Mom couldn’t stand Dennis, but then I don’t think she understood any man. She thought he was toffee-nosed and probably too good for me. How’s that for faith in your daughter’s choice? She had a grumble every time we popped in to see them. My Dad often told her to lighten up, after which she’d go into a lengthy sulk which entailed not speaking to any of us for months.
It wasn’t until Dad died that I discovered she was ill herself. She’d been suffering silently, cancer ridden and determined to hide it for as long as she could. No wonder she was miserable. It took Dad’s demise to make me realise her motive.
I don’t put bluebells on Mom’s grave. She gets the red roses that Dad planted in my garden. I remember the first flowering very well. Strangely enough it wasn’t long after the bluebells finished. Dad was doing a bit of weeding. ‘Got to take care of the roses,’ he said, ‘one day they’ll be needed for more than just a pretty scene.’ It was then he told me that Mom’s favourite flower was the rose. I never knew that. It’s amazing what we don’t know about our parents. Anyway, it transpired that when he proposed to Mom he’d given her a single red rose, wrapped by the florist and adorned with a huge red ribbon. It was St Valentine’s Day. How fabulous is that? I’d never have put either of them down as being romantic.
My basket is full of bluebells and some cones from last year’s droppings. I have a flask of water ready for when I place the flowers in the urn and there’s a prayer for my Dad playing in my mind. Ten years! In a couple of months I’ll be cutting roses for my Mom. I do hope she isn’t plaguing Dad too much in their own private heaven.