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"Oklahoma" Surprise


The date was June 15, 1985, and at 10 a.m. the temperature was already over 100 degrees in Phoenix, Arizona. The day was Saturday, so I was able to sleep later than usual. At first it seemed like a typical, blinding-hot summer day. But by the time I'd been awake for 10 minutes, I knew there was something I had to do.

I hurried outside, got the shovel out of the shed and started digging a hole beside the front door of our little bungalow. The area was thick with Bermuda grass that had grown there for decades. After almost a year in this home, my new husband and I had not started a flower bed yet. This was not the time of year to start a garden—not in Phoenix. Maybe a cactus would transplant well in this heat, but I didn't have a cactus and had no plans to buy one.

My husband had been mowing the lawn and stopped to stare as I stood on the shovel, trying to put a dent in the heavy dried clay.

"What are you doing?" he wanted to know.

"I have to dig a hole," I said, perspiration already dripping into my eyes.

"You're turning red," he said. "Why do you have to dig a hole?"

"I'm going to plant something here," I told him.

I don't function well in the heat, and voluntarily digging a hole for no good reason in the middle of June was not something I'd usually be caught dead doing. But there I was, doing just that. The strange thing was, I didn't know why I was digging this hole. But I remember distinctly not being concerned about not knowing why. I just knew I had to do it.

While the sun beat down on my seldom used, skinny white arms, I worked without a break for over an hour. I cleared away the grass and dug the hole deeper and deeper. I was very uncomfortable and getting sick to my stomach and slightly dizzy, but I didn't want to stop. I felt a sense of urgency about this digging.

We lived in what had once been a guest house. The larger home at the front of the lot had a renter in it. My husband and I owned both houses, but couldn't afford to live in the big house yet. We had married only eight months earlier, and a few weeks later my mother had died unexpectedly. She never got to see the home I would live in. She had lived in New Mexico and was sick with the flu when we had our civil marriage ceremony.

The shovel I held in my hands had belonged to her. I had many of my mothers things with me now—we fit everything we could into a rental truck, which we drove home two weeks after her funeral. As an only child, everything now belonged to me. I had her mail forwarded to my house to make sure all her bills were paid, and so I could notify anyone who hadn't heard that she'd died.

The hole was about 18 inches deep now, centered between the sidewalk and the wall. I leaned the shovel against the house and sighed with exhaustion. "I'm done!" I announced.

My husband, by then, was sitting on a bench in the shade watching me. Before I had time to take a step toward the shade, a UPS delivery man walked through the gate and into the yard. "Here's your rose bush!" he said.

" Huh?" was all I could think of to say.

"You ordered a rose bush. Are you Mrs...." he read the name of the addressee—my mom!

"That's my mother! I get all her mail," I explained.

"Well, she ordered a rose bush and here it is!" he said, handing me the rose bush and leaving. The root ball was covered in plastic. I found the tag with the name of the rose. It was "Oklahoma."

My mother had visited my uncle in Oklahoma the year before. I felt the knowledge come to me that she had picked this rose to commemorate her trip. I now realized that before she died, my mother had flipped through a catalog and picked out a rose bush to be delivered to her at planting time. In her area of New Mexico, June was the perfect time of year to plant a rose.

Only then did I comprehend the significance of my actions that day—so out of character for me and, until that very moment, completely unexplainable. I understood that somehow my mother had led me to her shovel. Had told me exactly where to dig. And had not let me stop to rest, because her rose bush was ON ITS WAY! Only my mother could have gotten THIS girl to dig a hole on that sweltering June day.

I planted the rose and, the next autumn, 12 of the biggest, darkest, most beautiful red rosebuds I have ever seen appeared on that bush.

Thank you, Mom! It makes a big difference in my life knowing you're still around!





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