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Rose Blooms

A Journey

By Barb DukemanPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

“Every day. At least an hour, but she has to move more.” The doctor looked down at the little girl, and then back at her mother. “It’s the best thing for her…”

Twenty more minutes, and then we can leave, she thought. Trudging around with her daughter for an hour a day was the most burdensome chore, but she knew the doctor would be asking about Rose’s progress. Twenty minutes left to walk around the filthy block amid the litter and smog that was the city. No brisk jaunt in the countryside, either - Rose moved slowly, legs that disobeyed, a withered arm dangling by her side.

“It’s a girl!” exclaimed the midwife six years ago as she finished delivering the small, fragile being. “Wait a minute - she’s not breathing; she’s blue – call the hospital!” Let me see her, please, let me see her. “I’ll ride with you to the hospital.” What’s taking so long? What’s happening?

Gray hospital, sterile, frantic. A nurse’s voice rises above the din, “Start lifesaving procedures STAT! We’re losing her again!”

Just let me see her, please?

“Give mom another shot of something stronger . . . she doesn’t need any more stress. Is she prepped for surgery?” Where is my baby? Hazy . . .

“Mom, look at bird.” Rose stumbled, unsteady, as she gazed upward, head at an angle, peering at the scrub jay sitting on a low branch. “Bird.”

“Yes, that’s a bird, Rose. Keep walking,” she said, exasperated.

Walking down that hall toward the hospital nursery seemed to be the longest distance in the world. There she was - oh, how horrible those tubes and wires were. They covered her body like some kind of science-fiction creature. Plastic tubes, adhesive circles, breathing machines, monitors all humming along with each hesitant breath that she took. “How bad is it, doctor? How much damage...”

“Well, it’s hard to tell,” replied the doctor. He turned away from the baby. “She went into distress as she descended through the canal, and her heart rate plummeted and nearly stopped. We don’t know how long her brain was oxygen-starved, or what organs sustained damage. When the initial tests came back, we also found some unrelated congenital muscle tissue and bone damage. Physically, she may never walk. On a cognitive level, she may learn some primitive language skills, but that’s about it. I’m so very sorry I don’t have better news.”

It’s not your fault. I don’t want your pity. I don’t want anything. “When can I take her home?”

“Oh, she won’t be going anywhere for a few weeks, if not a couple of months. She’s not out of the woods yet,” the stone-faced doctor replied.

“Wood . . .wood,” exclaimed Rose. She clumsily bent down to pick up the small piece of ragged plywood which lay among the overgrown grass and other trash strewn about the ground. Holding it up, she tilted her head and weakly smiled, her eyes connecting with mine.

“Yes, Rose, that’s wood. Let’s keep going before the rain starts” Taking the wood out of her hand, I moved along, a dried-up twig guiding her empty and deformed seed.

Years of doctors, therapists, specialists all did the same for us - nothing. Month after month, hope of a normal life was brushed aside like a poisonous weed. Rose would never leave the assisted-living facility, they told us, nor would she ever be independent. After several hip and knee operations, she managed a couple of steps. The doctor had said I should take her for a daily walk to encourage muscle development and increase the range of motion in her new plastic bones. With all we had gone through, I found it hard to look at her anymore. I, her mother, a martyr without a cause. Rage after rage shook my soul, resentment for all God had given me. Why did I deserve this? What did I do to earn all this pain?

“Paint, Momma, paint on th’ wall,” Rose mumbled. On the shadowed wall of the vacant store, gang graffiti and obscenities spray painted in fuzzy neon colors remained. Pointing at the wall, Rose repeated, “Paint.”

How poignant; she can’t read the writing on the wall. “Yes, dear, it’s paint. Keep going.”

I looked down at the broken sidewalk, the broken pieces of my life. A violent assault. No family. A mentally-defective child. Why did this have to happen to me? Was I so horrible a child to warrant such a life? I really had no reason to continue, no reason to live. The state would take care of Rose as it had thus far, and I had no other family to worry about. Would she even know? Would she even care?

“Oooooh - look!” exclaimed Rose. I looked at the area where she was pointing, but I could not see anything. “Look. Pretty,” she cooed, tensely awaiting my reply. I could only see more weeds, trash, and a pair of small trees, dying from lack of water. Cigarette butts, cans, and parts of an old newspaper lay scattered by the sidewalk. What could she be seeing that I couldn’t?

She slowly teetered over to the trees and reached down in her own faltering way. Moving her awkward hand toward the base of the small tree, she moved some of the weeds aside. A small patch of wildflowers graced the area; flowers of red, pink, and orange dotted the otherwise beauty-barren sidewalk. Rose fumbled and picked out a single pink blossom and handed it to me. “Momma, this is me.”

I took the flower and looked at it closely. It was an ordinary flower, the kind that grow wild throughout the city, yet different from all the others I had seen before. The face of the flower seemed strong, resilient, as if it were defiant to live despite its surroundings. I gazed at Rose, my wildflower, and she was smiling at me. Did she really know? I took her small hand and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. My Rose was beautiful, and I’d never noticed. I never even stopped to look.

“Thank you,” I told her, and placed the flower in my shirt pocket so it peeked out at the world, a reminder of this epiphany. “Thank you.”

And we continued our slow walk, down around the block, holding hands and smiling, looking at the world in new and miraculous ways.


About the Creator

Barb Dukeman

After 32 years of teaching high school English, I've started writing again and loving every minute of it. I enjoy bringing ideas to life and the concept of leaving behind a legacy.

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