Without further ado, I present "Onions."
One of our two daughters was several states away at school. The other daughter was unreachable at a church activity. My husband was too ill to come. My beloved Papa had been dead for years. My Mama was in her 80s and she too was several states away. I had never felt so lonely in all of my improbable life.
One of the nurses asked me if I could call a friend. They could not reach the “Best urologist in all of Portland, Oregon.” It might be easier to refer to him by his acronym buiaopo. (Stop and say it out loud. I think it sounds good either as bwahpo or bwahpoo). Apparently buiaopo never makes mistakes so he doesn’t bother answering either his home phone or cell phone. (I don’t sound bitter do I?)
Finally I called my dear friend. I had already thought of calling her but because of physical disability she struggles constantly with money. I knew that it would be very difficult for her to get to the hospital where I was. When I called her I apologized but she didn’t even hesitate. She said she’d be there as quickly as possible.
While I waited for her I began to think of my childhood. I was born with severe allergy asthma. I also had very little immune system. My allergies would trigger infections, and infections would trigger my allergies. I was in and out of the hospital constantly. My parents struggled with financial need, two other children, work, church work, and a desperately ill baby.
I continued to be medically fragile as I grew older. Somehow through all of this I never felt as though I were a burden. Indeed both of my parents told me that I was a miracle. They made my difficult childhood a blessing for them and for me. I thought of how grateful I was for my remarkable parents, and my beloved brother and sister and this made the difficult time pass faster.
When my girlfriend Joni arrived she walked in the door with both of her hands behind her back. Joni usually walks in with her hands behind her back. She will pull her hands out and in them will be nestled some homemade treasure. Sometimes it’s a fridge magnet, or a delicious cookie, but Joni’s loving hands are never empty. This time when she pulled her hands out she held a large, yellow, onion.
She was concerned when I began to laugh and cry simultaneously. When I could speak again I asked Joni why on earth she had brought an onion. She said three times she felt impressed to pick up the onion and bring it. Two times she put it down certain that it was a crazy thing to bring someone sick in a hospital. The third time the impression was too strong for her to deny and she brought the onion.
Joni had never known my father. He died many years before Joni and I became friends. My father LOVED onions. He grew them in our enormous garden. He ate them on bread, sometimes with cheese, sometimes by themselves. He put onions in our Christmas stockings. He also put fruit and candy, but I believe in his mind the onion was the best thing in the stocking.
When my brother got married to Louise, my beloved sister-in-law HATED onions. Soon it became a joke back and forth from my dad to Louise and from Louise to my dad. When Louise had surgery and was in the hospital Papa had a florist make her a beautiful bouquet of flowering onions. It was gorgeous, but didn’t smell very good! At Christmas Louise made Papa some homemade chocolate covered onions. One year she gave him 100 pounds of onions. When my Papa died Louise said that she was certain he would find a way to make onions grow in her lawn.
So, when I saw that onion in Joni’s hand I knew what it meant. It meant that even death couldn’t stop my Papa. It also meant that I had an amazing friend who is deeply spiritual. Two days later when I spoke to my Mama I told her about the experience. She started to cry telling me that the night that I was so sick she had felt that something was wrong with me. At 85 and two states away she couldn’t be there in person to help. She prayed and asked God to let my Papa find some way to help. Has God ever answered your prayers with an onion?
The story doesn’t end there. My husband and I moved when our daughters were both grown up and gone to college. We were very excited to buy a new bed. We wanted a four-poster bed. We looked everywhere. We used the classifieds, the online computer advertisements, and word of mouth from friends. We looked for months. The bed was too expensive, or not what we wanted, or too fancy, etc.
My husband found a one-day sale of solid wood furniture. We went and found a lovely bed. The posts were eight feet high. I didn’t notice what was on the top. Imagine my surprise when we put the bed together at home and discovered that on top of each of the posts was an onion. I’ve looked ever since. I have never found another four-post bed with onions on top. The bed was hand made in India. Any statisticians out there who would like to tell me the odds that we would happen to find a four-post bed with onions on the posts?
Every night I climb into that bed, I grin. I think of my beloved Papa and the joyous time when I will hug him again. I remember him tucking me into bed as a child. I feel the same sense of safety and protection. Before I go to sleep, I thank God for a deeply spiritual friend named Joni, my Mother’s faith, my Papa, and for onions.