This is the story of how I ended up in stranger’s yard in the middle of a hail shower, happy, and how cancer is around unexpected corners, how we are more connected than we may want to be.
The plan was to go to the tulip festival, but it’s been cold, so we decided daffodils were a better bet. The daffodil festival is next week, but what the heck, worth a try.
My uncle has been there before, so after a stop for coffee at the local Chatterbox cafe, we drive out to what he affectionately calls “daffodil hill.” There, on a hillside with an amazing view, is a field of daffodils. We pull up. The yard is in disrepair around the edges, the kind that happens when you have a hard year and all the non-essential falls to the wayside, but the daffodils shine, beckoning. We park, and walk out into the field.
Note that I’m not so sure about it – not sure they’re open, that visitors are welcome. But my uncle moves with confidence, so I follow. The view is breathtaking – a 240 degree view of fields and hills and a big tree, and the foreground is a swath of yellow, 150 different types of daffodils. It’s hailing, and chilly. I’m standing there photographing it in my mind, fixing it in the memory, soaking it all in. The farmer walks up behind me, and I jump. But he’s a gentle man, and kind, and he puts a tin can in my hand and starts picking flowers for me.
My uncle asks if this is a commercial farm. The farmer says, “No, I planted these flowers for my wife, her favorites.”
“How long ago was that?”
So now I know – this IS his yard, not a formal farm, and we just drove up and walked into his yard. We’re trespassing, truth be told. Yet he’s being incredibly kind, showing off his hobby. This is a man who loves his wife. And the daffodils mean a lot to him, and he wants to share that.
We wander the hillside, and the hail bounces off my parka hood, and it’s cold and any sane person would go inside, but we’ve driven a ways and it’s beautiful and I don’t care about getting cold. It’s a year after diagnosis and I’m just darned glad to be here in the world. I can’t stop smiling at how truly beautiful it all is.
I finally feel compelled to tell him why I’m so happy to be standing in the hail in his field of daffodils, and explain, “I’m one year post-cancer. I don’t care that it’s hailing, I’m just happy to be here.”
He asks, “Breast cancer?”
He says, “My wife had that three years ago. Did you have to do chemo?”
“Yes,” I say, taking off my winter hat, “Look, I even have hair.”
He takes off his hat as well and says, wryly proud in the way that men of a certain age are of their hair, “I do too.” We are neither one bald. His hair is longer than mine.
He explains that his wife only had to do radiation. When I finally turn to look him full in the face, he has tears streaming down his face. He looks worn to the bone, with dark circles, and I think about the state of the edges of the yard at the driveway, and I’m afraid to ask. You would think that with the year I’ve had I’d be able to ask, but no, that is precisely why I can’t. I’m already trespassing in his yard, not wanting to trespass in his life. I worry that I know why he’s sad, and I hope beyond hope that I’m wrong.
(And I wonder at myself – why can’t I ask that very human and very simple question that even a 4-year old would know to ask: “Why the tears?”)
He insists that we take more flowers, and for me the beauty of the place is enough, I don’t need to actually pick flowers, but he really wants us to take them. So we do, a bouquet in a tin can.