Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Mr. Henry’s Roses

A Short Story – by Grégoire Crevier

Preamble: Some years ago, while walking the pilgrim trail known as the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I had the privilege of meeting Grégoire Crevier from Canada. We walked the trail together for several weeks and remained friends – he in Canada and me in Australia – even after we finished our long walk to Santiago de Compostela.

This short story was written by him – and I liked it so much that I asked him permission to publish it on my webpage.

So here, with my acknowledgement and thanks to the author, my friend Greg Crevier, is the story of Mr Henry’s Roses.

It was the summer of 1980 – and her name was Cathy.

She had auburn brown hair with the most beautiful hazel green eyes – and a smile to die for. She was bright and articulate – and she wanted to change the world, to rid it of poverty, arms, exploitation, class and gender inequality.

I was impressed by anyone who had read anything by Rosa Luxemburg (not that I knew who she was at the time). Having myself been raised on the Grapes of Wrath, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers’ boycott of grapes and lettuce, I fell in love with this woman and wanted to change the world with her. Together we were going to make it a better place. Passion, enthusiasm, youth, idealism and love – what a summer it was going to be!

It was also a passion in which I was greatly helped by Mr. Henry. Well, it was not help that Mr. Henry was aware that he was giving me – it was help that I received from the flowers in his garden.

Now Mr. Henry lived down the street from me and though I was only twenty at the time, I had known him for years. I had cut his lawn, delivered his newspaper and cleared his driveway of snow. He was the gentlest person I had known. Always polite, gracious and well dressed, he was the only person I have ever seen who always wore a tie. He also tipped me well for the work I did for him.

But above all these attributes, Mr. Henry was a devoted gardener. He had the most beautiful garden on the street, with some lilac trees in front of his house along with several tenderly-tended bushes of roses. Those roses were big, bright, beautiful and fragrant – visible, touchable and their fragrance inhalable even from the street.

One evening that summer I was headed over to Cathy’s place. While heading out I passed the row of Mr. Henry’s lilac trees. I could not help myself and soon enough the back of my parents’ car was filled with lilac flowers. The car must have smelled of lilacs for a month.

While on the way to Cathy’s I had to stop at a red light. In the car beside me was a couple that appeared to have been together for well over fifty years. The man who was driving looked and pointed at my pile of lilacs and laughed. His wife also looked at the pile of flowers in the back seat and then at me. Our eyes met and she gave me a warm, knowing smile. She knew and she understood the passion of a young man’s heart. It may have been years ago, but she remembered.

On another evening Cathy and I had dinner planned in the heart of Montreal. What an evening it was going to be and what an evening it was. It was one of those typical warm July evenings in Montreal – and I was going to be downtown with the most vibrant and interesting women I had ever known. While driving down the street on my way to pick her up, I passed Mr. Henry’s house, and again, remembering Cathy’s reaction to my gift of lilacs, I stopped.

Did I hesitate for a moment, asking myself if this were the right thing to do? Of course not, because at that moment it was the only thing to do! I stopped the car, left it there in the middle of the street and walked across Mr. Henry’s lawn until I reached the rose bushes and then, snip, snip, snip, three beautiful roses were now in my hand. I was so excited at the thought of giving these to Cathy that I did not even have the courtesy or the decency to look at the void among the rose bushes, the empty space that was caused by my pilfering and greed.

Well, the summer waned and so did the magic. I was to learn for the first time of some of the inevitable consequences that take place when a person’s passion and desire are returned to sender.

I was also to learn, and not for the last time, that Time Heals. Off I went to university in another province and eventually the summer of 1980 became a near forgotten part of my past.

A few years later, while home visiting my parents for a week-end, I headed out for a walk. Down the street I went, and eventually passed Mr. Henry’s house. He had just pulled into his driveway and was slowly walking up the steps toward his front door. A little older, a little slower, but still the Mr. Henry I had known for so many years.

“Mr. Henry” I cried out, “how are you?”

It had been some time since we had seen each other and he approached me in his usual kind and gentle manner. He asked me how I was doing and how I was enjoying life. While standing in front of this kindly and gentle man, I was overcome with a flashback of my transgression into his garden. I had not thought about those roses for a long time or even of the person for whom they were intended. But at that moment I began to feel responsible for the consequences of my disrespectful and ungrateful actions. This man had been so kind to me over the years – and I had thanked him by stealing from him. I simply had no choice, and there in the midst of our discussion, I let him know that I was guilty and had stolen from his garden for the want of flowers that I could easily have obtained in the village. In my haste and desire to please this wonderful woman, I had committed the crime which I was now confessing. I told him that I understood and acknowledged that I had broken his trust and took from him something that he had nurtured and cared for.

I was by now anticipating the wrath of someone who has learned that their trust and friendship had been betrayed. After hearing the news he stared at me, a long silent stare and his silver grey eyes were so piercing that it was if he knew everything there was to know about me. He stood there quietly, so quietly that you could have heard the ants crawling along the grass. I was motionless, bracing myself, awaiting his expression of disappointment. The scolding I was about to receive would be well deserved.

He stood there and then, softly, ever so gracefully, with just the hint of a smile on his face, said, “Gregory, Thank you for telling me this. I am honoured that you found my roses worthy of the young lady  who inspired your passion”.

4 comments on “Mr. Henry’s Roses

  1. Yasmin Jayawardena
    May 17, 2020

    Dear Sanjiva
    What an inspiring story. It’s amazing how the right view has the right thought and the words uttered are From that thought is nothing but loving kindness. Awesome Mr. Henry.
    Best wishes
    Yasmin.

  2. CHAP Mark DUNN (Ret’d)
    May 19, 2020

    Confession is good for the soul!

  3. Gordon Racey
    May 20, 2020

    Mr. Henry’s Rose’s – what great little story. Even more so because, I grew up with Grégoire and also new Mr. Henry. As Greg said, a wonderful person, his wife was as gentle and kind as he was. Thank you to both Greg and you, for bringing back some memories, and telling this story.

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2020 by in Short stories and tagged , , , .
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