My parents passed away over the last few years — my dad in January of 2011, and my mom in late July of 2013. Both lived into their late 80s, so they both had a good, long run at life. The last house they owned was a large, unattractive brick structure that was among the first houses in the area built by white settlers. That house was old when I lived there, and frankly, my parents couldn’t keep up with it — especially towards the end — so the place was in pretty rough shape.
That house still holds an enormous stash of memories for me; it’s the house I grew up in. In fact, I hadn’t lived anywhere else until I moved away after graduating high school. One of my fondest memories was the smell of lilacs wafting into the house in early spring mornings. When they moved into this house in 1963, Mom and Dad planted cuttings they had taken from the glorious stands of lilacs in my maternal grandparent’s yard on Notre Dame Avenue in South Bend, Indiana. Those bushes grew tall and strong, even surviving my dad sliding off the roof into them. That was a winter when particularly heavy accumulations of snow prompted us to climb up to clear the excess weight that was causing roof collapses around the Midwestern United States. In the photo above, you can see one of the lilacs plus the stump of the other, cut down when it died several years ago. Both had spread to the sides substantially, and were something of a nuisance, but I still miss them.
When it became clear after my dad died that the house was going to be sold, I went back there on a mission; I dug out two slender, young stalks and put them in a pot to take home with me. I’m tremendously glad I did; the people who bought the house ripped the remaining bush out as part of their remodeling. Last year, after two years of growing, my lilac finally flowered, and it did my heart a world of good at the time.
After it was done blooming, I transplanted it to a larger pot; I’m told lilacs don’t do well in a pot long-term, so I’m hoping to buy myself more time to find a permanent home for my memories. Sadly, it’s becoming obvious that, though we’ve discussed moving to a larger house with a yard we control — as opposed to the common spaces in the development we live in now — my wife and I are unlikely to move out of our condo, except for the last time when we give up independent living. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this lilac; perhaps it’s for the best that some things aren’t meant to last.