June 21, 2012

Life is Like a Rosebush

Early memories

The other day I thought of a fond memory from back when I was ten years old.

I was helping my Aunt Rose tend to her rose garden, and we were chatting about a lot of things, then, out of the blue, she said, “Life is like a rosebush, Jibbo.” (She always called me Jibbo)

“How’s that, Aunt Rose?”

“A rose garden is a wonderful thing. Right in the center is a magnificent, beautiful rose, but it’s surrounded by thousands of thorns.”

It was a warning, like the ominous kind you see in movies or read about in children’s books.

Rose Giammatteo, 95 years old and going strong

Aunt Rose

Aunt Rose

Aunt Rose is like that. She is one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever known, but she has a thick layer of protection in the form of a realistic, sometimes skeptical, outlook on life. I suspect the motivation is to protect the ones she loves from getting hurt. If any of us ever got too happy or too optimistic about something, Aunt Rose would be there to warn us it wouldn’t last. On that particular day I was helping her, I didn’t heed her warning. I was ten years old, and the world was nothing but roses.



Seven years later I got married, at barely 17, and I went into that phase of dreaming about the great things life had to offer. I had a job that paid me $2.75 an hour and my wife and I had just rented an apartment—and with no parents to tell us what to do—what could be better. At nineteen, I started my own business. The world was mine. I saw the millions.

Then the thorns started showing up. At twenty-seven, frustrated and in debt, I sought a career elsewhere.

A New Beginning

Once again things went great. We had visions of our three children all being something special. Early on those dreams were the typical ones: doctor, lawyer, physicist…plug in your favorite white-collar occupation. By the time our kids reached the teenage years all we wished for was them to come home safe on Friday nights. Once we came to our senses, all we wished for was for them to be happy.


It wasn’t until years later, when those thorns kept jabbing me, and poking me, and keeping me up at night, that I understood what Aunt Rose meant by her saying. Many years after that, I finally understood Aunt Rose.

My youngest son suffered a near-death experience from drug use, and, as my wife and I sat in the ICU waiting room, she looked at me and said, “We should have never had kids.”

I held her, brushed her hair, and said, “Remember the time he told his friends we were the best parents in the world?”

She nodded, and looked up at me. There were tears in her eyes.

“And the times when he spontaneously said, ‘I love you, Mom.’”

I kissed her cheek. “Those are the roses, babe.”

 Bottom Line

Aunt Rose was right. I know that now. Life isn’t perfect. It never will be. Things will always go wrong. If you want to enjoy life, you have to realize that. And you have to learn to appreciate the roses.

So every time you get pricked by thorns, even jabbed pretty damn hard, remember that somewhere out there, a rose or two awaits you. Life is like a rosebush. How true.


Ciao, and thanks for listening,



PS: Aunt Rose will celebrate her 96th birthday this coming October. And she is still dishing out great advice.


If you feel like sharing, tell us what your roses are.

For me, as a writer, it’s a simple email from a reader saying how much they enjoyed the story, or how the book kept them up all night reading it. That means more to me than a critic’s review, more than seeing my name on the book cover, even more than sales. Those letters are the roses of writing.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”

15 Responses to “Life is Like a Rosebush”

  1. Well, I started this once and the electric went out, so I think it was Jim Scott letting me know he remembers this also, but when you were living in your first apartment Jim was your mailman and he would always go up to see Mikki when he delivered your mail. One day the Jimmy and Julie were outside of the apartment playing with other children and they said “hi” to Uncle Jim as he was going up to the apartment. The neighbor asked them how they knew him and young Jimmy said “Oh, that’s Uncle Mailman” and the neighbor said “Uncle Mailman huh?”. Now that’s a rose of a memory if there ever was one.

  2. I remember. Hilarious!

  3. Your Aunt Rose is a wise woman and you’re a lucky man. I hope you have many more years with her.

  4. Thanks, Maria. Me too.

  5. When I was in jr high, we lived on Clayton St.. Your Aunts Margaret and Rose also lived on Clayton across the street from our house. Rose was Secretary to the principal at Bayard Jr. High and at least 2 – 3 times a week reporting to Mom regarding my behavior. Needless to say, I soon learned that being a model student wa my only salvation, because, altthough Pop was a soft touch, Mom was not.

  6. You had me laughing with that one, Paul. I remember Rose in those days, and she walked to work all the time. I think all that walking kept her young.

  7. Beautifully written, Pops! And nice tribute to Aunt Diddie.

    Roses for me? Every time I get to help tell someone’s family story so they have it to pass on to the next generation.

    And of course having a dad like you.

  8. Grazie, ti voglio bene

  9. So beautifully said. Really had me thinking of all the roses in my life instead of all the thorns. It is the thorns that make us strong.

  10. True, Barb. But I could do with a few less thorns.

  11. Pass the kleenex!! Aunt Rose sounds like a very wise woman. What a moving tribute. Beautiful post. Children can have many thorns, but once they blossom, they are beautiful and become the rose bushes in our hearts. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thanks, Cheryl. Aunt Rose is very special. She turned 96 last week.

  13. Jim –

    I needed to read this today! I shared it at FB and with my 19 yo daughter who was dumped by a boy today who said he needed to find time for God. (That’s a new one.)

    This is so true! I’d love your Aunt Rose. I’m going to look for the roses today, but know that I can’t avoid the thorns. Hopefully I’ll have the strength and wisdom to step with caution in that bed of roses.

    Thanks for all you do!

  14. Glad you found it useful, Michelle. Have a wonderful day.

  15. Jimmy, another good one from a Cleland Heights kid.

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