You hold on and I don’t know how. And I wish I did.
Maybe you were born committed…
I can’t get negative enough.
I can’t get angry enough.
And I can’t get positive enough.
~ Hubbell Gardiner, The Way We Were
Hubbard entered my life that summer of 2011 a few months after our arrival in Florida. Boomer brought him home. An optimistic, loving gesture in an attempt to shift our collective moods. Life in Florida wasn’t going well; Boomer’s drinking was getting worse along with the emotional and physical distance between us. He use to make frequent gestures of thoughtfulness, tenderness, and surprise — his way of trying to suture our shared despair and disappointment at the sliding decline of our lives and our relationship. “Hey SMO, come outside, I brought you a present,” he said. Stepping outside the backdoor, there on the driveway next to the house in a ten-inch black plastic garden center bucket stood Hubbard, a three-foot tall hybrid hibiscus shrub. He had no flowers, but he did have his tag describing the two color blossoms, solid white and solid red, he would grow for us if we cared for him.
Hubbard got his name from Boomer. Boomer intended to name the shrub after Robert Redford’s character in the movie The Way We Were — Hubbell. He got close, Hubbard stuck. Boomer spoke in symbolic reference how the movie and its emotionally distraught main characters in familiar ways reminded him of us and the way we were — then and now and our shared enjoyment of the hibiscus.
We planted Hubbard in the ground the same day and watched him quickly acclimate to his new environment, displaying those dynamic white and red flowers his tag promised. In the years following Boomer’s passing, Hubbard continued to be a source of joy, inspiration, comfort, and hope to me. In the winters he went dormant, got a good pruning and I eagerly awaited his spring resurgence. This reliability for me acted as a surrogate of Boomer’s spirit-centered loving devotion.
I’m the first to admit the strong emotional attachment I have to this hibiscus shrub. I concede Hubbard is my pet; my pet shrub. I love this plant more than is probably reasonable to. One morning, while sitting on the front veranda I heard a whisper…dig him up, get him in a pot so he can adjust was the specific instruction. You’re taking him with you and he needs time in the pot in order to survive the move, the directive finished with, do it now, do it today. So I did. Hubbard was one of two plants I uprooted from the yard of Sunset Place. I asked a friend to foster-parent Hubbard and his companion plant through the move. They camped out on Lisa’s front porch for two weeks during the transition from old house to new house at the other end of town. When we reunited, Hubbard got a new home along the pavers of the front walk. It suits him. He gets bright sun all day, which is his favorite and his pot sits next to a sprinkler head so he’s never thirsty.
Some memories last forever was a tagline for the motion picture The Way We Were. Moving to a new home in the wake of losing a spouse aroused confusion for me. I didn’t know how Boomer, my memory of him, and our time together integrates in this space and the new emerging chapter of life. It’s more uncharted terrain. I think that’s why Hubbard is still with me, to keep drawing in Boomer’s sunshine through his beautiful blossoms.
Lately I’m discovering a balanced center where Hubbard is playing a staring role, but I see myself scrambling to capture and protect all that I can for posterity…
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust