Sometimes the tapestry of one’s life's memories seems to conceal too many sharp needles of sorrow, for missed opportunities, for unfinished business, or for useless and heartbreaking tragedies.
The last two days have been extraordinary for me in that respect: I found an old photograph of an American medical student I knew in Geneva, and hardly had I finished writing about it, when I opened an old wallet and out fell this piece of Timothy Grass (Phleum pratense). Now it’s hard to believe, but I really think that this dried and pressed remnant has been with me for some 50 years, since the time when I knew a young man called Timothy, and picked the grass for his sake.
I was staying with my cousin Mirabel in the Clee in Shropshire. She and her husband lived on an old farm, no longer a working farm, but they had a good friend Tim who worked a sheep farm in a neighbouring village. Ever attentive to my welfare, my cousin determined that I should meet this young man, as she was sure we should like each other – and indeed we did. We became quite close for a while and several times I spent a few days on his farm, when visiting my cousin. It was there, in one of his fields, that I picked the piece of grass that bore his name.
Tim was dark haired and good looking, sturdy and tough, but slightly handicapped by a forshortened arm, due to a clumsy forceps delivery at birth which had damaged his shoulder. This did not seem in any way to interfere with his competence as a farmer however, nor did it make him any less attractive in my eyes. But alas, it may have been instrumental in his tragic death at an early age.
We went our separate ways eventually, and each of us got married and had families. It was some years later that I heard from my cousin that his life had been lost, when he swam out to sea to help some people who were in trouble in rough weather. The attempt cost him his own life, and a good, kind, courageous man was gone.
So I shall not throw away my piece of Timothy Grass.