Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dennis the Cactus

We have a cactus named Dennis.  We received it as part of a wedding gift from one of Ray's childhood friends.  When I saw this small cactus section in a pot, my heart skipped a bit.  A popsicle stick with "Dennis" written on it was sticking out of the dirt.
This was a part from a larger cactus that belonged to another friend.  Dennis had this huge cactus that reached the ceiling and that was covered in Christmas decorations throughout the whole year.

I did not know Dennis.  He died in 1986 from cancer.  I have heard that he was happy.  He loved Christmas...picking just the right gift for his family and friends.  He was the type of person that even grumps had difficulty staying grumpy.  I imagine him as having a twinkle in his eyes bringing joy to all.  I wish I had known him.

Dennis knew that everyone loved his cactus so he would cut sections from it and gave them away.  I wonder if this was after he was diagnosed with cancer?  It really doesn't this living gift was a great reminder to all to take life with a smile.  Ray said that his own cactus grew to the ceiling...but that one year it was left outside too long and it died from the bitter winter temperatures.

That is why the wedding gift was so appreciated.  We had a part of Dennis's cactus growing and bringing joy to our house.  Dennis grew...and grew...and grew.
I divided it and we soon had 'Denny' growing.  Denny grew faster than Dennis and soon we planted 'Denise' which I gave to my sister.  We had another offspring that went to Ray's daughter, Valerie, and she named hers Denise too!

Dennis and Denny are so large that they lean with risk of uprooting themselves so we prop them up with a pole of some sort.  I am worried that our home will become "Little House of Horrors" with Dennis and Denny saying "Feed Me," whenever we walk by.
Dennis and Denny...I know I could put them
in bigger pots...but then they would get larger!
So...last year I had a great plan.  I was going to make a start of lots of little Dennis plants and give them away at Thanksgiving.  My plan was to have some sort of verse or paragraph about the meaning of this plant and that each person could name his or her plant after a loved one or friend who has died of cancer.  That way Dennis will be spreading memories of many and hopefully bring some joy.

My idea did not come to fruition.  I have the pots...I have the potting soil....but Dennis and Denny are still growing out of control with all of their arms attached.  Hopefully, by writing about this, I will follow through in the spring and send lots of smiling cacti to loving homes.

I just spent half an hour searching the web to find what kind of cactus we have, but to no avail.  Maybe someone reading this will be able to help.  The picture to the left is part of Dennis.  Note the four sections searching for a fact the one section looks like a tongue ready to lap up some food.

 But I wonder....doesn't  it took a long time for a cactus to grow?....maybe Dennis is not a cactus....back to the internet for more research.


  1. What a loving gift to give and receive. A really unique way to give a part of yourself and be remembered by those who receive the gift. I do not have a green thumb so I applaud anyone who can keep a plant growing.


  2. Such a neat story! Dennis lives on through his cactus progeny! I love your worry that they will start saying "feed me!" soon. Gave me a smile!

  3. I think of my Denise as a prickly pear, because that's the only kind of cactus I know of with that shape. But there are many species of prickly pear (says Wikipedia, the whirlpool), so I guess that doesn't narrow it down much.

  4. I agree, Valerie...prickly pear seems to be the closest I can find....but the prickly pears that I have seen (a few from walking into them) are not long and tall...but as your dad said...maybe they have not been supported...but then I wonder...wouldn't they be snakelike along the ground? Oh well, guess it is back to Wikipedia. :-) Thanks for your suggestion.

  5. What a way to carry on the memory of a friend! Perhaps you should bring a portion of Dennis to a botanical garden to see if a botanist could shed some light on the life cycle of your plant. Your names cracked me up. Have you ever read the book The Old Lady Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant?

  6. Dennis is a prickly pear but has adapted to the Midwest weather and sunlight hours. We had Dennis' original cactus that came to our house each summer and sat outside because Dennis lived in an apartment complex. The cactus was humongous and was planted in a big metal wash tub. We wrapped it the best we could in newspaper to protect ourselves from the pickers. When the weather started getting cooler in the fall, the cactus would go back to Dennis' apartment. It bloomed a couple of times. The cutting I had died. If you ever get inspired to give away some "starts" of Dennis the cactus, I'd love to have one. My friend, Nancy, also has an offspring of the Dennis cactus. Some of the "starts" landed in the bushes by her front porch and have adapted enough they come back each year. Fortunately, they are in a spot where they are not a nuisance. I will name my cactus Big D. Thank you!