Happy Father's Day (2011)
Yesterday as I walked down my driveway to pick up the Miami Herald, I noticed that rain lilies had once again bloomed after the long, dry season that we’ve had in South Florida. 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 George 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 George Philp, grand progenitor, I return the simple gesture of a rain lily.
One HeartPreviously posted as “Behold, the lilies of the Field.”