One day, I took it upon myself to do something really nice for my beloved wife. I was carrying on a tradition I had been doing for a long time. Years earlier, I heard a radio broadcast from Paul Harvey’s, The Rest Of The Story about a man who had bought roses for his wife every day for something like fifty years. It sounded like a good, romantic idea so I began my own tradition. Every payday, I would buy my wife flowers, well, one flower and take it home to her. When I first began this tradition, I had also used roses as my flower of choice. A single rose for my love. Nothing was too good for her! She loved the roses and I loved giving them to her but there were one or two flaws with roses. One, roses had thorns. Two, roses were quite expensive and their cost could fluctuate greatly from one week to the next, especially around the holidays. It wasn’t like my wife was not worth the cost of a single rose every two weeks because she was. Rather than look on the cost of flowers as an expense, I looked upon the price as an investment. I was practically a banker with my investment way of thinking!What played into my second choice of flowers were reasons three, four and five. Carnations were less expensive. Even during times of special occasions, their prices didn’t fluctuate from season to season. At the original time of this writing in 1996, a buck a piece was the norm.
Another thing about carnations that made me make them our flower of choice was that they lasted longer than one week. Some, if they were completely fresh when I bought them could last from one payday until the next.
And lastly but most important was the fact that my wife really did love to receive carnations more than she did roses. Ah, what sweet luck.
The particular payday I referenced in the beginning was like many of the other 364 days in Portland, Oregon. It was raining and though it was, the rain was not the problem I am endeavoring to explain.
On my way home, I had parked about a block from my flower shop and was walking back to my car in the rain, holding a fresh, white carnation in my hand. Having become a regular, my florist had wrapped my flower in a funnel-shaped tube of colored paper. She had also tied a pretty ribbon around it making it look quite impressive for a dollar.
I was feeling pretty good about myself because I just knew that when my wife got her flower, her eyes would light up. Perhaps, her eyes would then cloud over with tears as they had in times past. After presenting her with such a beautiful flower, I would say those three little words she had become so used to hearing.
“What’s for dinner”?
Her response would be something like: “What? No, ‘Honey, I’m home, how was your day’? No, ‘I love you Dear’, it’s good to see you? Not even a kiss?”
Of course, after that, I did only what I thought was proper and right. I repeated, “Honey, I’m home. How was your day? I love you Dear. It’s good to see you”.
With that being taken care of, I followed it all up with a kiss. My wife’s response to what I had just done was, “Do you really mean it or are you just saying those things because I just said them”?
“Yes to both questions.”
That’s pretty much how it went that night. I announced my arrival by asking for dinner, she asked her questions and I gave her the responses she wanted me to say. Before she had a chance to say more, I quickly asked, “Do you like your flower?”
She had told me before how much she loved getting a flower each payday. Sadly, for me that evening, I really didn’t have a flower to offer her. Things had changed in between the time I had purchased her flower and my walk in the rain back to my car. As it turned out, just before I got to my car, I was trying my hardest to avoid all of the puddles and keep from getting drenched. It wasn’t working because I was getting soaked through and through. With my car was in sight, I just happened to glance to my left and noticed a man sitting on the low brick wall of a flowerbed in front of a bank. Looking closer as I hurried past him, I could see that the man was not just any man. He was a homeless man. A street person. Some might even call him a bum. He was someone who slept out in the open and rummaged through dumpsters in allies, looking for pop cans and any other useful items he could fill his empty shopping cart with.
As I walked past him, I was truly grateful that it wasn’t me sitting in the rain. I was blessed with a job and a home to go to at nights. I was also blessed with a car. I was thankful I wasn’t living off of the streets like he was. I was glad I could afford such luxuries as the white carnation I had just purchased for my wife. Closing the door of my car, suddenly, I had a twinge of conscience which quickly erupted into a full-fledged attack of guilt. There, in the rain, sat a man holding on to an empty shopping cart, save for a coffee mug in the bottom. He just sat there in the rain, watching people go by on the busy street. Very few of them even noticed him and those who did, hurried on past him before he had a chance to ask them for something. He was bothering no one because he was asking for nothing. All he was doing was watching. I just sat there, out of the rain in my nice, warm car watching him in my mirror as he watched what was going on around him.
It was then that I began to notice a few more details about this man. I could see that he wore a red baseball cap with the brim turned off to the right. It was perched crookedly on his head with a mess of unkempt hair spilling out from under it. The side of the cap, which had become the front, had a big patch of grey duct tape on it. On the tape was what I presumed was his name. It said, “Old Stu”.
Finally, after several tense moments, I could not take it anymore. I was going to leave the security of my car and approach the man. Just before I got out, I came up with a plan of what I was going to do once I actually made contact with him. I grabbed my wife’s carnation and headed in his direction. He saw my approach but did not move. He just sat there as the rain continued to come down. I held out the flower and awkwardly said, “Here, this is for you”. Then I quickly asked, “Want a carnation?”
He smiled slightly. I got a better view of him as we stared silently at each other for what seemed like an awfully long time. He looked a bit ragged as he was sporting what must have been a week or more of facial stubble. I could not help but notice that he was missing most of his teeth which caused his face to cave in around his hollow mouth. When he spoke, his words came out slightly mush-mouthed and was a little hard to understand.
“A pflower pfor me?” he asked
Though he identified that the ‘pflower’ I was holding out at arm’s length was for him, he made no move to take it from me. Not knowing what else I could do or what I should say next, I stuck the point of the funnel-shaped flower paper in a coffee mug that was sitting in the bottom of his shopping cart. It then fell over and leaned against the side of the cart.
I had accomplished what I had intended to accomplish. As I turned to go, again, he smiled only slightly and said “Pfank you.”
I nodded as I walked away and was suddenly feeling pretty good about myself and my selflessness as I got back into my car. I had done something special, for a total stranger, who appeared to be living off of the streets in the inclement weather. I was trying to not get too puffed up with myself although I was pretty proud of myself for what I had just done. I had never done anything like that before.
The whole way home, I kept thinking of my wife’s response when I shared with her the hospitality I had shown to Old Stu. Surely, she would be pleased and I would be recognized as somewhat of a hero. She would practically fall down at my humble feet in adoration of my thoughtfulness to a perfect stranger! I was going to be her Knight in shinning armour. Her beloved husband! Her Prince! Her everything! I tried to not dwell on how just how great I really was! There was no one else like me!
Once I got home, I was almost bursting with a desire to tell my wife of my good deed but I decided to contain myself. I wanted the moment to be just right, the mood to be perfect. All of the kids needed to be present, just in case they felt the necessity to add to the admiration that I soon would be getting from my wife!
Finally, the proper time came while we were all seated at the supper table. I hushed all conversation and eliminated all distractions. All eyes were on me. clearing my throat, I said to my wife, “I guess you have noticed that I didn’t bring you your usual carnation”.
I was going to draw the occasion out, play out enough line, set the hook deep in all of their hearts then reel in their emotional affections! That was my plan alright.
“Didn’t you get paid today”? my wife innocently asked. I answered her that I had indeed, to which she followed up with another question.
“You just forgot to buy my flower, didn’t you? That’s alright. You don’t have to get me a flower.”
My plan was going to be harder to carry out than I had initially thought. It was getting hard to tell just who was fishing who.
“Well, no I didn’t forget to buy your flower”I said. “As a matter of fact, I did buy your flower.”
Her response was, “I thought you said you didn’t buy me a flower”.
“I never said I did not buy you a flower. What I said was that you may have noticed that you didn’t get your flower”.
I went on to explain my act of unmatched kindness in as much detail and with as much enthusiasm as I could as my wife and kids looked on with awe!
“I did buy you a flower but I gave it to someone else” I announced cheerfully. With the attention of the whole family, I had them all right where I wanted them. And yet, the expressions on their faces began to worry me. It was like a silent look of unspoken accusation so I continued on with my explanation.
“I gave your flower to an old man”! I said proudly, perhaps puffing my chest out just a bit.
“You what”? she asked in surprise, not batting an eyelid. In fact, if I had not known better, I would have said that her eyes bugged out…..just a bit.
Still, I felt like I had finally hooked her and I slowly began to reel her in.
Smiling, I said, “I gave your flower to an old man sitting on a wall by the bank”.
“You gave my flower to a bum”? my wife asked.
At last, she was getting the picture! I found myself fighting hard to not radiate in my humble act of earlier kindness but evidently, for my wife’s sake, I still had a bit more explaining to do. No problem! I would just give her the facts.
“He wasn’t a bum. He was a street person”!
“He was a homeless bum! You gave my flower away to a nameless, homeless bum”!
She sounded a little bit irritated. Things were not going exactly the way I had pictured that they would go but I thought I could still save face.
“He wasn’t nameless. His cap said, ‘Old Stu’ on it.
“Old Stew”? she asked. “You gave my flower to an old, stewed, homeless bum”?
It’s not that my wife is a card-carrying, nameless bum hater or anything like that. Quite the opposite. She is a loving, caring, generous individual who would do just about anything for anybody. Perhaps, I had crossed a fine line in giving her flower, (my small token of my undying love to her) to a….to Old Stu. Just perhaps!
It was somewhere around that point in the conversation that the more I tried to back pedal, the deeper in I got. From there on out, each little detail I added only made matters worse. The hole I was digging seemed to be turning into a deep grave that threatened to cave in on me at any second. Finally, I just gave up when some of the kids chanted, “You gave moms flower to a drunk!” “You gave moms flower to a complete stranger!” “You gave moms flower away!”
Needless to say, I had not earned any brownie points with my wife and the whole flower issue like I generally did ever pay-day! Instead of feeling like I was floating on cloud nine, I felt like I was in the middle of a big black rain cloud of guilt. All that was missing under my storm cloud was Old Stu! The rest of the evening only went downhill from there!
The next day, the guilt cloud followed me all day long until after work, on my way home, I went back to my flower shop. That time, I didn’t stop with just one single carnation. No siree! Instead, I bought two carnations to replace the one I had sacrifically given away the night before. Walking back to the car, I was relieved that Old Stu was not sitting on the wall where he had been seated the night before. Good! I wouldn’t feel compelled to give him half of my wife’s flowers!
On my own initative, when I got home, I walked in the door, kissed my wife, asked her how her day went, told her I loved her and handed her two neatly wrapped white carnations! Her eyes clouded over and I was where I should have been the night before if it had not been for some random act of kindness to one named Old Stu.
Looking back on it all now, I have come to the CONCLUSION that the whole experience could have left me feeling really bummed!