He stumbled over the lip of the greenhouse step, his swollen knee pounding with the rheumatoid ache he’d known for too long, too long.
He wanted to swear with the agony but his grandchildren sat in the house not far away, and they wouldn’t want to hear Grandad’s pain. There was a lot of pain recently, in his heart, his legs, his bones, it wouldn’t be long now, he knew.
Grandad’s wife knew. They’d discussed the end already, made sure he’d be ready, made sure the grandchildren would be ready. His wife wasn’t. His sweet wife with sagged cheeks that used to shine with the life they shared, she didn’t want him to end.
He was tired, though, even as he watered the drowsy plants in his greenhouse. He was tired of his hobbies and his weeping wounds that made him cry like a child with the discomfort. Once an adult, twice a child, his wife had said, and she was right. Except children didn’t have anything to leave behind.
None of them would come to water his plants after he’d popped his clogs, and that made him sadder than a grown man could explain. They were a token, small things that were inconsequential to everyone but him, and that made them important. Your own things are important because they are yours and no one else can care about them the way you would.
Still, his wife wasn’t inconsequential. His only son, his grandchildren, they were important, they were his and he’d cared for them. Who would do that after he’d gone?
Who would water his plants and make them grow?
Amaryllis grew through winter and flowered until summer. They didn’t need a lot of help, he could just pot them up in his own, lovingly nutritious blend of compost, and they’d survive without his green-fingered hand.
He picked up a plastic tub and pushed in the Amaryllis bulb, patting the dirt around it.
Inside the house, his family waited. They pretended to be alright with being left to grow alone, and he wished he could stay and help them, but some plants drown if you water them too attentively, some plants would wither under an eye too bright. He was a gardener and a Grandad; he would always love the things he’d seeded.
Without him, they’d bloom just fine.
This is a very short story I’ve written based on a beautiful surprise my recently deceased Grandfather left us. His greenhouses have fallen apart since he’s been gone, there’s overgrown weeds and rats and all sorts of collapses. It’s sad, but we found something still living, something he’d planted so long ago, back when he could stand. Pots of blooming Amaryllis survived the harsher months, and were rediscovered some days ago, much to my grandmother’s delight! She says it’s a miracle they’re alive, I think so too, but I also believe there was a bit of loving forethought on Grandad’s side. That’s where this short came from. The picture is one I took myself a few days ago, and they’re just as vivacious today.