February 28, 2024

It’s my call

Yellow Daisies

KATHERINE BURT-ROBINSON

As a young girl I spent many weekends at my grandmother’s house in Johannesburg. My grandfather died two years before I was born, and ever since Granny had lived alone in the house in which my father had grown up. She was, for the most part, a relatively bland person – every Friday evening she ate fish and chips for supper, and roast chicken was on the menu every Sunday. The only thing that really stood out about her was her glaring love for the colour yellow. She owned a hideous bright yellow bomber jacket that she would wear whenever she drove, gears grinding at every stop street. It is this love for the colour that spawned her pride and joy: her yellow daisy flower patch.

   I remember, clear as day, watching Granny care for those delicate flowers. She would nurture them like children, watering them religiously until they bloomed every year in September, and she would present them to me on my birthday as a ‘surprise’. When the summer thunderstorms came (and they always did), the flower patch would be destroyed. The next morning, granny would dutifully pick the fallen flowers off the ground, shaking her head mournfully as she gently cupped them in her hands.

   By the end of summer, all the daisies were dead, and she would start from scratch. I always wondered why she chose such fragile flowers to fill her garden. Were sunflowers not a better option? Why spend so much time on plants that end up dying? Baffled, I would bend down to help my grandmother to dispose of the broken daisies.

   I was swimming when she died. When I climbed out of the pool, my father was there, waiting to tell me that, after a year in frail care, she had finally given in. I looked into his eyes, expecting to see a glimmer of tears, but there was none. I saw nothing but the sadness of a man who had mourned his mother’s death months before she had stopped breathing.

   My uncle, a writer, gave her eulogy at the funeral. He spoke of my grandfather, and a version of Granny that I had never known: a person full of laughter and joy and love. When they carried in her coffin, I started crying. Gently, my father placed his hand on my shoulder and I cried even more. The coffin was covered in yellow daisies.

   Granny’s house was demolished and a trendy duplex was built in its place. My mother offered to drive us past it to see what it looked like, and my father refused to join us. It was the first of two markers of grief that I would see in him (the other being the time I discovered Granny’s yellow bomber jacket hanging in his cupboard).

   The duplex, not yet rented out, would have been pleasant, had it not been built over sixty years of family memories. As we drove away, I spotted a tiny yellow daisy growing out of a crack in the driveway. It had never occurred to me that the daisies grew back every year naturally. Perhaps their strength lay, not in their ability to withstand the storm, but in their ability to be reborn after it.