My mother, my brother, and I were making plans for Memorial Day. I would pick up my mother, and my brother’s family and my family would meet at the cemetery that morning. When we had finished decorating the graves, we would go to my house for a barbecue.
“Can you bring lilacs with you?” my mother asked. “Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers.”
My mom had just been to our house for Sunday dinner, and before she left, I cut her a bouquet of lilacs. She was still enjoying their fragrance.
“When I die,” she said, “make sure you bring lilacs to put on my grave.”
“I’m quite partial to mums, myself,” my brother said. “Our lilacs are past blooming, so I think I will stop at the store and buy some mums to bring.”
“What about you, Daris?” my mom asked. “What flowers do you like best?”
I thought about that question. Though I enjoy the fragrance and beauty of flowers, I must admit that what I like most is tied more to feelings and memories. I’ve grown roses, irises, tulips, and just about every type of flower. I love to watch my wife and children enjoy them. I also like to see the children carry them in to their mother. But strangely, the flower that brings the fondest memories is one I don’t even grow, at least not on purpose. That flower is the dandelion.
I remember as a boy going into the pasture and seeing a sea of yellow and thinking it was the most beautiful sight in the world. But even more, I loved to see the wonder in the faces of my own children when the flower we too often think of as a noxious weed filled the countryside with a golden hue.
Only a couple of weeks ago, my two-year-old granddaughter was going across the yard, stopping to pick the small flowers. Each time her chubby little fist couldn’t hold anymore, she would come and deposit them on my lap for safekeeping.
I thought of her own mother as a little girl. She would pick the dandelions. When I would get home from a long day of work, she would bring them to me in a cup of water her mother had helped her arrange.
“Here are some daddy wyons for you,” she would say. “I picked them specially for you because you’re my daddy.”
I would pull her onto my lap and give her a big hug. Then I would often read a story to her, or we would sing a children’s song together.
Over the years, almost all my children brought me bouquets of “Daddy lions.” When they were small, they thought their daddy was the smartest and best guy in the world. But then they grew up, and as they did, daddy seemed less and less competent. When they became teenagers, to them, daddy’s esteemed value seemed to turn into an exponentially downward spiral until he was old fashioned and knew next to nothing about what was good for them. That finally seemed to turn around some when they married and had children of their own.
Still, dandelions remind me of what I felt were some of the best times of my life. They remind me of working in the yard or playing in the park with my family. They remind me of picnics, hikes, and camping trips together. But mostly they remind me of my love for them and pulling them onto my lap for a hug, a story, or a song.
When my granddaughter finished gathering dandelions and brought the last bunch to me, she gave a big handful to me and took the rest to give to her daddy. So, when my mom asked me what flowers I loved best, to her surprise, I had an unusual, but ready, reply.
“I just hope my children will bring me handfuls of Daddy Lions to put on my grave when I’m gone.”