Friday, June 8, 2012

Flowers for Algernon

How many have read Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon?

I surmise the title may be more familiar than the tale, which has, despite being taught across the country, elicited attempts to ban it from libraries because of its sexual awakening content. That Charlie falls in love with his former teacher, Miss Kinnian--you know, because human beings DON'T ACTUALLY fall in love with each other--apparently is too much for adults to bear: their children. Human beings. With real emotions. Go figure.

No, no, this isn't an advocacy tale for adult-child relations. Goodness no. Bear with me.

But there is Platonic love in the story--a powerful kind of love that the world could really use more of (dangling participles be damned).

A surgical procedure to enhance intelligence had been developed, but first needs a trial run. The guinea pig comes in the form of Algernon, a laboratory rat. It works. So Charlie Gordon, with an IQ of 68, undergoes it. And it works. He falls in love with Miss Kinnian, blah, blah, blah, but as he develops intellectually, he can no longer relate to her (or anyone else) as his IQ reaches the stratosphere.

But what goes up must, the adage goes, come down.

As Charlie's intelligence rises, Algernon's declines.  Algernon dies.

And Charlie, in a note written before he leaves (or does he commit suicide?), inscribes a last wish: for someone to place flowers on Algernon's grave.

Flowers for Algernon. Everyone, everything deserves flowers. Remember the Yellow Bellies Flycatcher that Miss Gray Kitty killed? It too, received flowers: a sprig of lavender.

On two occasions, I've referred to my neighbor, "S."

"S" has a name: Sharon.

In one blog entry, "You Get my Rocks Off, Baby," I recounted Sharon's tale of our move to 410. If the neighbors feared for the block--two guys looking at 410 multiple times = frat-boy parties, garbage, and noise--my careful unpacking of my rock collection caused her to alert the neighbors that "those boys are gonna be okay, cuz they got rocks!"

In another, "A Parable," I  recounted a teaching moment for both of us: Sharon, a self-professed black thumb, needed help watering plants. I needed a lesson in learning how not to become easily agitated.

Sharon was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just before Christmas. She has been doing well--the woman is made of steel--but even Iron Ladies must fall at some point. That is the law of mortality. The bargain.

[Insert expletives here.]

She told me two days ago that her cancer is very aggressive and the situation is not good. (For her privacy, I will not write details here.)

I helped her start her garden--identified low-maintenance plants that even "black-thumbs" can care for--and divided some from my own garden!  She was delighted!  And we became closer.

And she added to the mix without my assistance.

And she has a garden.

I surreptitiously took these photos from my second floor library, so they are not of the best quality. I love the way she paired the caramel colored heucheras with the lilies. She has enjoyed experimentation with color combinations--and we all very well know gardening is experimentation by another name.

Her lavender is stunning. Compact, deep purple flowers. She offered me a cutting two weeks ago. I refused--not because I don't want it, but because now is not the time. Autumn is. Or, better, next spring. Besides, I wanted it whole for her.

And all I can think of these days is "flowers for Sharon."  She must. We must. Now. And when that time comes.

She needs them.

We all do.

1 comment:

  1. as always, i love your reflections. But I am just amazed that you can compose such well thought-out pieces and still be getting any work done on your book! kudos! NAW