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She feared a visit to her hometown would prove bittersweet at best, but the lovely aroma of roses soothed her pain.
“Let’s get some flowers for your mom’s grave while we’re in Temple,” my aunt Kris said. We were passing through Temple, Texas, to drop off my grandmother after our annual family reunion in San Antonio. “Okay,” I said, but I wasn’t enthusiastic.
I hadn’t been back to Temple since my mother had died 15 years ago, and I didn’t really want to linger. This is exactly why I never come to Temple, Texas. Nothing but sad memories.
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We bought a big bunch of red roses at the grocery store. They reminded me of the wild, dramatic rose bush that grew outside our old house in town, the house where I’d spent my teenage years while Mom battled her terminal illness.
The roses filled the car with their sweet fragrance. I pruned the old rose bush with Mom every summer. I seemed to always get a few pricks from the thorns, but Mom had Band-Aids at the ready.
On the way to the cemetery we passed our favorite Chinese restaurant, where Mom took us on Friday nights as a treat. Egg rolls for me; Mom ordered moo goo gai pan.
The high school football stadium passed outside the car window. I’d run on the track team and played flute in the marching band. I had some great friends and a lot of good times here, I thought.
At the cemetery, the roses’ lush petals looked gorgeous on Mom’s headstone. The visit wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
After we dropped off my grandmother, I smiled as we drove out of town. The tough years of Mom’s illness were much like those red roses: They had their thorns, but they’d had their beauty, and their sweetness too.
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