Behold, the lilies of the field

Father's DayYesterday as I walked down my driveway to pick up the Sunday Herald, I noticed that rain lilies had once again bloomed after the long, dry season that we’ve had in Miami. I’ve always regarded their appearance as almost miraculous for it seems as if they do not flower merely because they are watered (I do my fair share of lawn work), but only after rainfall. I am surmising that it takes the right sequence of events that include rainfall, humidity and other factors, and behold, Zephyranthes atamasco.

The appearance of the rain lily also has a special significance for me because it is associated with my father. I did not know my father, Sydney Philp, very well. I was his tenth child from four marriages, so the time that I spent with him was always important to me. In the brief times that I spent with him (when I was conscious enough to understand), I realized that he was a charming, brilliant man and that combination with his “high brown” status in Jamaica must have made him irresistible to the ladies. He also had a great sense of humor. I found this out when I asked him about the name Philp (which no one can spell correctly—if I ever catch those guys, Geoffrey Philip, Geoffrey Philps, or Geoffrey Phillips, I am going to kick their collective asses for stealing my copy) and he told me about a trip to England where he met a certain young lady who told him..

Anyway, although our teenage years were difficult, our family started Philp get-togethers which were prompted (sadly) when we found out that our father was ill. We flocked to Jamaica to see the old man and to get to know each other as grown-ups. Some of my older brothers and sisters still think I haven’t grown up because I’m a writer, but that’s another story.

My favorite memory of that time was sitting on the verandah with my father and eating roasted corn, smelling the mixture of rain and earth before the showers came tumbling down Long Mountain, watching him fall asleep as the rain fell, and realizing in that moment that even though he might soon not be with us, that everything was irie.

All was not forgotten, but forgiven. For in a strange way, it had to be that way. The more I talked with my brothers and sisters, especially the ones whom I envied because they had spent so much time with him, I realized that I would not have become the man I am today if the events had not played out in that particular sequence.

My recollection of the rain lily, however, goes back to the time when I was leaving to the home of his fourth wife to go back to Mona Heights (the house that he and my mother bought), and as I was walking with him in the lane at the back of the house, he pulled up a rain lily, handed it to me, and said, “There, you can’t say I never gave you anything.” And he laughed. The old devil laughed. And all I could do was laugh and tell him that I loved him. He said, “I know.”

So, whenever the rain lilies bloom at my front door, I remember my father and those brief moments we had together—which were as brief and miraculous as the appearance of rain lilies—and I give thanks.

So, to Sydney Philp, grand progenitor, I return the simple gesture of a rain lily.Father's Day

One Heart
May 22, 2006

"Behold, the Lilies of the Field" is now a part of Journey into my Brother's Soul.


Stephen Bess said…
Geoffrey Philp said:
"Some of my older brothers and sisters still think I haven’t grown up because I’m a writer, but that’s another story."

It's amazing how family never really get to know the person that evolve in to. Some of them still think of us as Lil'____. They never get to know or respect our talents and our dreams.
Wonderful tribute to your father.
Geoffrey Philp said…
Dear Stephen,
It's compounded even more in the Caribbean where writing is still looked down upon as not being serious enough.
Ah, well.
Give thanks for the comment
Anonymous said…
This is such a wonderful Fathers Day story on so many levels not least of which is the angst that many fathers (and not just Jamaican fathers) feel and yet are hesitant or unable to express about whether they have been sufficiently "there" for their children, and that behind the joke and bluster there is a tenderness that doesn't surface often, but sometimes after a rain...
Geoffrey Philp said…
Great idea!
I will re-post on Father's Day.

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