Early in the morning, I got into my car after a workout and saw that I had forgotten to move my passenger side seat back to its original position. My grandson had visited, and I had shifted it as far possible forward in order to accommodate the car seat in the back. Grandson. As I looked up to the clear morning sky with its smattering of stars and the first hints of dawn, I thought to myself there must be some mistake. I cannot possibly be old enough to be a GRANDMOTHER! In my mind and in my heart, I am still young. I still get excited when I walk the 350 steps down to the ocean from our house. I still get excited when it is time to get a Dairy Queen dipped cone, and I can’t hold off on eating the popcorn until the previews are over to save my life. But here was the evidence: my car stood in silent testament to the passage of time.
As we grow older and endure the “slings and arrows” of human existence, our joy can be chipped away. Loved ones pass into the oblivion of death. Expectations are disappointed. Relationships end or suffer irreparable damage due to the all-too-human nature we all bear. Seasons come and go, and the joy we once felt at the first sight of a crocus blooming on the north side of a house in the middle of February becomes muted by the pain of loss, the grief we all share. The temptation is to despair. For many, religion and faith offer hope in “things unseen.” For others, there is a deeply romantic faith in the essential nobility of the human creature–despite evidence to the contrary in the form of war and selfishness and hatred. There are many petals, so says T.S. Eliot, in the “multi-foliate Rose.” Yet, one thing remains true for all of us: we must face the river of time alone. We must guard our own memories, build our own bulwark against the implacable blackness of the inevitable night. We must come, at last to accept that a spring will come that will be our last.
In my pre-dawn revelatory experience with the car seat, I came to a kind of acceptance. I also embraced my anger and my mourning over my own mortality. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to accept the fact that my little grandson will one day receive word of my passing. Will he register sorrow? Will we be close enough that he will mourn my passing, or will he simply pause out of respect before moving on with his life? Will he remember the day in February when, with the sound of the ocean in background, we planted a gladiolus garden in my yard? Generations from now, will my father’s blue eyes still echo through the ineffable chambers of time? Is there a life beyond the flesh, and if so, do I even want it? I embraced my anger and my sorrow. I pondered the earth.
The river of time flows onward. I shall leave my anger by the riverside, for it will only prevent me from enjoying the water and the flow and the marvelous sights along the way. I hope that soon I will put aside my mourning. My father and mother are on the other side (wherever, if). My children are grown and have their own lives, and I must follow the water as it moves towards the inevitable crash and roar of the falls. One day I will not be. The things I planted, will they remain? This is for others to know, other souls far down the vast expanse of generations branching ever upward and outward. For me, it is enough to smell the salt air and feel the first warmth of sun-thirsty earth in the middle of February. As the Psalmist says, “The righteous are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.” It has been enough to walk by the waters and to have walked through groves of wild daffodils as a child. It has been enough to have felt the first touch of a newborn daughter, to look into the eyes of my firstborn, to have laughed with my third born, to have danced the “Irish Washerwoman” with my little grandson. It has been enough to love and be loved.
February 7, 2019