You Don’t Bring Me Flowers

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore June 11, 2002

It was just a couple of days before my much-anticipated travels Out West to see our daughter. I was in the bedroom fretting over the details of the trip. Ann called out from the kitchen: “Fred! Isn’t June 11 somebody’s birthday or something?”

I did a flash-scan of the cerebral calendar and came up with no birthdays, and went back to figuring out how many pair of socks I would wear in Wyoming.

About 5:00 the next day… June 11th… my daughter called me: “Congratulations!” she exclaimed. I said thanks, then waited for the punchline. “What did I win” I asked, in total oblivion?

“It’s your anniversary, daddy. YOU DIDN’T REMEMBER?”

That’s right. Fred, the keeper of calendar trivia, who can tell you what date we moved into each of the eight homes we have owned, can quote the date and day of the week I got my digital camera, and know for sure the date that we brought the dog home as a puppy… this same Fred had forgotten the event of his (I hesitate to reveal this number) 32nd wedding anniversary.

My daughter was both mortified and hysterical with ironic laughter. The humor was lost on me, but not the horror, as this was all unfolding no more than two hours before Ann would be home from work.

Well, dig a hole, crawl in, pull dirt after. I confess that as holidays go, I can readily dismiss several as conspiracies contrived by collusion of Hallmark Cards and Russel Stover Candies and I refuse to participate. But not a man’s anniversary! Only salvation was that, I was ALMOST sure, she had also forgotten. In that shade of doubt lay the terror of the moment.

My reaction in this moment of eleventh hour panic was resignation, to just take my lumps that by my folly I had earned. To do nothing. Throw myself on the mercy of the court. Our son, Nathan was totally mortified that I would not only forget but then compound my sins by offering nothing more than an aw-shucks apology. He rallied the troops to action.

Together, Nate and I created the illusion of planning. We quick chilled a bottle of what-ever we had, and secreted it to the most romantic spot on our land. At the head of our valley is a wooded glade where the canyon narrows, the hillsides are lush with Rhododendrons and huge oaks and tulip poplars, and the creek pools and plunges down below. It is the most peaceful place on Earth. Ann and I set up a crude bench there… an old plank on two big rounds of poplar… and often talked of ‘one day’ taking a bottle of wine there and watching the sun go down. In two years, that ‘one day’ had never come…too many chores and obligations had intervened to even go down there and sit a while.

She got home at the end of her workday, heavy with the effects of her job. When the time was right, I told her I had something I wanted her to see up the valley. This is not unusual as we often find wildflowers, old chestnut rails, remnants of old farmtools, and such that we show each other on our walks. We approached the ‘park bench’ in our quite place in the glade and she soon saw the top of the wine bottle peeking out from under the plank.

“Wow! What’s this for?”

I breathed a quick sigh of relief, now that I was sure that she didn’t have a clue what day it was. “You forgot our anniversary?” I exclaimed with mock-indignation? I considered trying to act like I had remembered all along. But I couldn’t live with the deceit, and I quickly confessed that I had forgotten too. She laughed hysterically finding it easy to believe that we had both lost the date in the flood of daily routine. What a pathetic irony of lives lived so long that another circuit of Earth around sun since 1970 is just another day.

In the frenzy of the moment, I had forgotten to bring wine glasses. We passed the bottle between us a few times, reflected on that June day when we were so young and had such great expectations. Now, here we were, sitting on a plank, swilling cheap wine, some expectations achieved, some regrets, some hope left even yet.

We corked the bottle, packed up, and walked arm in arm in the dusk, back to the familiar, the routine, the forgettable everyday mix of joy and disappointment that is the year of marriage.

But you can bet your sweet petunias, I have my calendar marked for June 11, next year.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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    • THAnks Gary, I’m settling in on how, when and why to use Fragments again, having the liberty of not disturbing anyone save for the few who have Fragments in a feed reader. Apologies for the possibility of more frequent and more trivial posts going foward, but I think that suits the situation best. This doesn’t mean I actually WILL but only that I intend. Full of intentions, I am!

  1. Congrats to both of you!! You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore…………..What a throwback… Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand. So, what is the vehicle that You and your Beautiful bride(wife) are pictured in? A VW? I grew up in a junk yard in Pleasant Garden NC, so, cars, especially vintage, are always a interest.

    Again, congrats!, and I hope many more years to you both!

    Greensboro NC

    Loooong time, no see!

    • Well hello Mark! Long time indeed. And yes, a ’67 VW beetle. Red.

      The blog has recently been salvaged from the scrap heap, protected from the massive hacking that made it worthless for years. Now I’m not sure what use to make of it, but will find its purpose.

      I have been tossing “blog posts” to Substack now for three years. I don’t like to PUSH writing and images to subscriber inboxes, but it is low friction (vs the blog) and keeps me off the streets.

      Earth Alive: Field Notes from the Southern Mountains

      Great to have you drop by!