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  • Caleb R. Haynes

You have to learn to flourish on your own.

It was Christmas day at your parents house. It was the first time I’d really seen your parents since they wanted to meet me right after you came out. We’d been together for almost two years and I was nervous as hell when they invited me over for Christmas dinner. Your mother greeted me with a warm smile and gifted me a bamboo plant. Making sure to tell me all the details of how to care for it, she also explained that it came with a promise of good luck. You and I exchanged glances and smiled.

There they were, two beaming bamboo stalks growing perfectly side by side with one another. A gift tag that said “Merry Christmas, Caleb” wrapped delicately around one of them. It felt like we were making progress. It felt like finding a family. Finding acceptance. Your dad shook my hand like he was saying “I’m still not sure I’m okay with you dating my son, but I don’t see that changing any time soon.” It was a pleasant moment suspended in time, I suppose.

The last time we saw one another, I had no idea that I would never see you again. A week later, seemingly overnight with the Christmas gift tag still attached, one of the bamboo stalks died. It was the strangest thing, it completely rotted from top to bottom, so frail I could crush it between two fingers. I carefully separated the two stalks that previously grew so parallel, so in sync — in the hopes that the remaining one would continue to grow on its own.

I think not unlike this life, sometimes we are left with no choice but to salvage what is left rather than mourn what has been lost. To cultivate kindness in the midst of waves of intense sadness. To persevere even when your world becomes so wholly unrecognizable to you. Often, friends marvel at how massive the bamboo has gotten — over 5 feet tall at this point — they comment on how they’ve never seen a bamboo plant quite as large before. Today, two years to the date — new growth appeared. A tiny stalk sprouted from beneath the soil seemingly overnight and without warning. I was grateful to see these new sprouts. More than just salvaging what was left, I made room for new growth.

I guess sometimes you can only grow parallel for so long with someone before you have to learn to flourish on your own.


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