As morning temperatures hover at half-mast of summer’s high, I’m wondering how we’ll remember this hottest season on record.
Will it be for the sixty-five days of triple digit temperatures endured since June? The crop failures? The cost of hay this fall? The lawns that look like hay? The water rationing and surprise visits of city auditors — to ensure we play by the rules?
Or will it be something of a personal nature, hitting closer to the heart?
I imagine the year’s extreme weather patterns will serve as mere backdrop for me, given the upheaval from changing residences. All the accompanying renovation work, both inside and out, would be a worthy contender for defining this summer — were it not for other half-mast matters closer to life’s quick.
Do I write of them? No, better not. Best to skate across their surface and leave them undisturbed.
Needing a change of scenery, we got away last week, though not to either of our original destinations. About this time last year we booked a Mediterranean cruise. Then there was that vacation I dreamed of last autumn and into winter, which would have whisked us to upstate New York — the place of my father’s birth — and to Vermont, where I had just discovered three eighty-something year old cousins.
Interesting how plans — and even people — can shrink and stretch in importance, as we wear out our days on earth.
Without so much as a backward glance, I tossed Greece aside when we purchased this new house, while the trip to New England lost gas as it drew near for take off. And when it came time to commit, the only vacation I really wanted to take was to Utah, to visit my father’s only sister.
I told my brother in July I had a hankering to see her one more time. But it was more than that. Way more — since some mysterious something was urging me toward Utah. One minute I had no desire to go. And in the next, I was calling Sis and asking her to come with me. Then asking my husband if he’d like to go too. And when they both said yes, I called Aunt Carol. And then before another dream vacation could die stillborn, I shored it up with seven nights of non-refundable accommodations.
This hurried response was born out of ignoring two similar calls before. The first, four years ago, came the weekend before Mom’s unrecoverable stroke. Out of the blue, I began to feel uneasy, began sensing a mysterious urge to drop everything to go see her. But rather than give into the unexplainable, I pushed back with rationalization. Then, three years later it happened again. I felt a pull to visit Aunt Jo, a few weeks before her death. As I drove by her house without stopping. I had no desire to ignore this thing a third time. And though it had been years since I’d seen Aunt Carol — until last week, almost a biblical forty — I had to go and see her, even at the risk of a little awkwardness.
Yet, how comforting and safe it feels when we’re around those who’ve loved us from birth. For in spite of its eternal nature, there’s a tenderness about their love; no matter how many times we fail at life, no matter how long the separation, their love of us endures without judgment.
On the night of our arrival, she welcomed us with a home cooked meal. When it came time to leave, she asked us to stay ‘one more day.’ As for the not-so-gooey middle, we filled our visit with stories and photos. Old ones. New ones. Hers. Ours. Funny ones, sad ones. The three days together made the years apart unimportant — and the visit unforgettable.
Of course, Aunt Carol was far from hovering at half-mast as I feared. So who knows where that urge to go see her came from or what it was about? Because she looked good. She looked happy even, in spite of many, many reasons not to be.
And what’s more, since coming home, I’m begun to feel a little more like myself — in spite of those few unmentionables flapping in the wind.
Lisa Smith said:
I love your writing. It makes me cry, though. Don’t know if that is good or bad, anyway, I love it!
Ah, those non-refundable reservations. It took me a while to remember my last one – finally did. A museum show in Houston. Not quite so much a commitment, but still….
I’m glad you went to Utah, both for the visit with your aunt and for Utah itself. Had you been there before? My year in Salt Lake City was wonderful – although a little quirky. There are stories, trust me – most of which revolve around Mormon theology and practice. Better told in person, over a cup of coffee.
I would have said, like you, that the weather was just a backdrop for all the other events of the summer, had our state not burst into flames over the weekend. I can handle hurricanes, but fire scares me to death. I happened to be watching the radar and saw the Bastrop fire begin. Any fire you can pick up on radar from its inception is way too big for me. Terrible.
In any event – you made your trip, and it sounds like a complete success. Any trip that brings us home happier than when we left is a good one, in my estimate. As for that urge to see her – 40 years seems a good enough reason to me. 😉
Thanks for stopping in — for your kind words and taking time to write them.
I find writing difficult these days. But this piece was worth the struggle. Because while I labeled our visit ‘unforgettable’, I do fear losing its nuances — such as the tender ways she regarded us with her eyes and the many ways she expressed her love: Meals, “Coke’s anyone?’ And that wonderful listening ear she has which “hears” between the spoken word.
You mentioned tears. Funny how I failed to mention my own. I could not stop crying our last evening together — a mixture of sadness over the dreaded goodbyes and other tear-triggering reasons I’d just as soon skate across. But somewhere along the way I’ve heard it said that “tears are heart’s truth.” To the extent this is so, tears are always good in my book.
We’ve suffered a few wildfires too — though nothing as big, bad and scary as what is burning in Bastrop.
We arrived home from vacation to two hard-to-contain wildfires ourselves, bad enough to make the evening news in Moab. Aunt Carol called the next day to ensure all was well with Sis and i.
I can’t believe I”m thinking this — after all those years of living on the Gulf-Coast — but wouldn’t a little Tropical Storm be mighty helpful about now?
Moving out of the drought-struggling south, you asked if I”d been to Utah before. Only once, and only to Moab and whatever towns we passed through from the south that were on the way. I was young — sixteen, I think — but even then I thought it beautiful.
Can’t believed you’ve lived in Utah too! Where haven’t you lived? And as for those Utah stories — will you offer a rain check? 🙂
Oh, my yes! Everyone I know in Texas has just been praying for a tropical storm. When Lee missed us, reactions ranged from grief to rage – that was supposed to be OUR rain! Instead, we got the winds that spread the fires.
I was pretty mobile for a while. There was one 20-year span when I never lived anywhere for more than three years. I think that contributes to my occasional restlessness. There probably will be only one more move, though, or two. I know this. Once I’m no longer varnishing, I’m going to be away from the coast. I’ve seen what it’s like to evacuate as an 80 year old, and I’d prefer to avoid that life experience.
Speaking of life experiences – you surely are mentioning what you don’t want to mention a lot. I do hope whatever it is, it’s either resolving or capable of resolution. You’ve been mightily absent here, and I’ve been missing you. 😉
So how will you know it’s time to hang up your varnish brush? Is it as easy as reaching a specific date or age — or something more nebulous — like listening to your heart?. Or knees? Whichever, I imagine it’s sort of exciting to have a new place of residence to look forward to. And yes, I wouldn’t wish to evacuate at our parent’s age — in that situation, I can imagine Daddy would have just wanted to stay home and take his chances.
And as for the unmentionables, I expect both to resolve themselves in some way — though at least for one, not without additional heartache. I think the hardest thing we’re forced to do in this world is bid our loved ones good-bye. — whether for an extended period or for the rest of our lives.
You may have a different opinion and that’s okay.
As I write this, I’m thinking I should get back to my morning page writing practice. It really helps to have a safe place to park my feelings — and sometimes, I don’t know how I feel until I package them in a word.
And really — thank you for missing me. Being missed always feels good.
When to hang up the brush? Shoot, I would have done it now if I could – but the issue isn’t date, time or the urgings of the heart. It’s the bank account. Nothing nebulous about that. When I decided to leap out of “corporate life” twenty-some years ago, living paycheck to paycheck was hunky-dory. I could do it. If I needed more money for something, I took on another job.
I didn’t quite have a grasp on things like “old”, “retirement”, “economic collapse of the country because of idiot politicians” When I was salaried, I was a spender. “Nest egg” didn’t mean much, either, and Mom outlived her money. So, I’ll probably be working for a long, long time. Can’t gripe, though. I’ve had a couple of enjoyable decades, and haven’t had to wear nylons and heels since…. since… uh…..
As for goodbyes – I hate goodbyes. I can’t stand to tell my kitty goodbye when I leave for a trip, for gosh sakes. I went through a period when I had entirely too many plants, because I couldn’t stand to say goodbye to trimmings – everyone got their own new pot! I’m getting better on that.
Gosh Linda. Of course. Money. Duh.
But how I love the way you talk about your retirement reality. You could take those top 2 paragraphs and make a post from it and not change a thing. Or maybe something more than a post? Dare I say it? Ah, why not. SHORT STORY.
I’m betting most people would love the heroine of that story. She’s got so much sass.
It’s always good to catch up with those we love; when the time comes for it to be too late, then good memories like this one are a huge comfort all round. So perhaps just the pull of love is enough, nothing desperate or needy.
The pull of love should always be enough, shouldn’t it?
So why, my wise friend, isn’t it? Why is it that we’d sometimes prefer to be mules, digging in our heels to keep ourselves from yielding an inch to the pull? Why do we live as if we always have tomorrow to give love reign, to set ‘things’ right? Why when we know “too late” always comes sooner rather than later?