Blooming Tigers

   This year Father's Day comes three days after my daddy's birthday. He has been gone now for twenty one years, but his birthday is still always a sad time. At least one consolation, one source of joy for me has now come to accompany his birthday every year, and that is that we have tiger lilies blooming in our yard. Real tiger lilies were one of daddy's favorite flowers, but were elusive to him. He had heard about them, but had never actually seen one. He had seen photos and paintings, and of course there were tons of the usual orange lilies growing most everywhere, but none had the dark spots he so desired to see.  
  As a young boy growing up, I remember daddy searching for years for this beautiful Lily. 
  At long last, one of his friends told him about seeing a group of them growing way out in one of the swamps. He could hardly believe it! He made his way through the swamp, eyes scanning the edges of the bayou and behind every tree and thicket, fearing every moment that his friend may have been mistaken and that he was on a hot and sweaty fool's errand. Finally, spying the bright orange patch, he quickly made his way toward the flowers, just knowing the orange lilies were going to be beautiful, but unspotted again.
   Getting close, his jaw dropped as the bright orange flowers joyfully displayed their dark polka dots...just as he'd always had imagined and seen in pictures. He just sat and admired them for awhile before he realized he was on the horns of a dilemma. He was an avid gardener, but he was a man of faith and a strong conscience...could he? Would he? While he did not want to uproot them and destroy the beauty of the natural habitat in which they were thriving, he pacified his conscience by reasoning that if he very carefully took one bulb, he "might could" propagate more of them, then perhaps bring back more to plant in the swamp besides in his yard. 
   He lovingly planted the bulb he had brought back from the swamp and it grew and bloomed, much to his joy. When it finally gave up it's flower and wilted, he dutifully cut it back as is prescribed, and smiling, anticipated it's growth the next Spring. It was not to be. A late blast of freezing weather killed the plant, but he held out hope that the bulb would still survive and come up in his garden along with all his usual lilies come Spring. Can you imagine his sorrow? He didn't have the heart to go back and find the lilies in the swamp, and if he did go, he never found them. He never got to see a Tiger Lily again in his whole life. 
  About four years ago I told Peggy this story and much to my joy,  awhile later a few bulbs showed up, delivered by FedEx, that she had found online for me! 
  I prayed as we planted them and said, "Here, Raymond, we plant them here for you." Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined they would be this beautiful...and on my daddy's birthday!

These amazing double blossom lilies now grow in several places in our yard; some almost finished blooming, while others are still budding.

           They are the stars of our yard this time of year and remind me of Daddy and how much he loved them and how much he would have loved to see them.  Maybe from Heaven he does see them. If so, Happy Birthday, Daddy.
That's my daddy on the right. Next to him is his daddy, who is my Grandpa Cocky. The fella in the white tie is my Uncle Bird, who we lost not that long ago. That's me standing there in the red shirt. I cant wait to stand in that group again and tell Daddy that his daughter-in-law found us some real Tiger lilies. 
   I am the only one left here from that picture (besides the little kid) the rest are waiting for me. 
 If your father is alive remember to tell him you love him every time you talk to him. The one thing that's been any comfort to me over all the years since I lost him is the fact that the last sentence I ever said to my father over the phone that last Christmas morning was, "Merry Christmas, Dad I love you."

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