I have been watching the stages of my amaryllis as I follow Bill's progress in Al-Anon. Perhaps I'm putting more symbolism than I should on a well-meaning plant but each seems to be proceeding in similar steps.
When I first heard Bill speak of Al-Anon, the organization for family and friends of addicts of all types, my plant had just sprouted a new bud. Naturally, I could interpret this as the growing hopes Bill's group had been able to reinstill in him.
It was months before I saw Bill again. My plant grew tall and eventually produced a pair of bright red flowers on a single stem. I learned that he was again doing all he could to keep his marriage intact and, after a number of unsuccessful and heart-breaking starts and failures, he now believed things were working out. His wife, a heavy drinker even if she insisted she was never an alcoholic, was attending AA regularly and had indeed stopped drinking. A social drinker who admittedly enjoyed "one with the boys," this had required a sacrifice on Bill's part for he was resolute in his determination to set the good example.
I prayed it was simply a natural part of plantdom and not an omen as the flowers turned deeper and deeper red, shriveled and pathetically dropped. There was obviously no life left in this pair.
I had almost forgotten the sad flowers before I next saw Bill. His countenance said it all. Not only had he believed his marriage would survive with love but he had believed in it . . . and in her.
When had she started sneaking a drink? When did she hide the first bottle? Once he thought he smelled alcohol when he was greeted with a "welcome-home" kiss but she said it was only the wine for the chicken marsala and he, seeing no difference in her demeanor, had accepted her explanation without further thought. And that new cut on her forehead when he returned late after a business meeting? She'd tripped over the dog. He was dark-haired and how often had Bill also come close to falling over him? Again, no further thought given to an innocent happening.
Bill, however, is neither stupid nor naive and what was really occurring didn't take too much longer to sink in.
Afraid of being deserted were he actually to leave her, his wife checked into an alcohol-treatment hospital. She was as good as new when released - really better, Bill claimed, for she seemed young, more electrifying, so filled with joy and enthusiasm for their future. He was so happy he had decided to move back home. Not an especially religious man, he started attending services regularly in gratitude for what he saw as a new life.
I left those two blossoms on the plant as long as I decently could.
I had expected to be able to tear off the old leaves as I did the stem but, seeing the juiciness in one of the stems, I reached quickly for my scissors. Imagine my surprise, once I cleared away the old "junk," to see a healthy new shoot already a couple of inches high.
I suspect each of us can be blessed with that kind of recharging too.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org