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On the road to Utah

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.