All Things

13-07-09-aThe strange attractor that centers my universe for now is the growing certainty my parents won’t see another winter. Even the fullness of summer may outdistance them. The spectre came as slowly as time and a well life permits, but a thousand similes paint its implacable gait. Ages turn into years become months, then weeks, days, finally hours and minutes. All clocks stop eventually.

That they shall likely walk off into the Great Unknown almost simultaneously describes in the final act the entire arc of their life. In a word: together. Happily — no, joyfully — married for nearly seven decades. Never cursed with wealth, but ever blessed with love, they were rich beyond measure. They are why, even still, I believe in love.

To the extent I am a good person, look no further than my mother and my father.

momThere is really little else to be said, especially at this point. Mom has the option of turning 90 after 2-pi day (you wouldn’t think a music teacher would be so trigonometric). She’s one tough bird, my mom! Victor of not one, not two, but three separate bouts with cancer. Even several strokes weren’t able to take her out (but they did slow her down). She’s retained full clarity of mind throughout.

Dad beat her to the 90-year mark by his usual two-year lead. But he’s been a victim of Alzheimer’s, and the person that was my dad makes fewer and fewer appearances. Mom thinks, in retrospect, she saw signs of it over two decades ago. Looking back, I can see what she means; we had no idea then.

dadHale and hearty farmfolk, my parents are first generation American-Norwegians; their Viking-blood parents swam in icy fjords, farmed on rock and stunned oxen bare-handed.

So long as dad was able to “work the land” in various back yards, he farmed. There was always a vegetable garden — one that sometimes took over half the back yard. It wasn’t just tomatoes and cucumbers; it was anything that would grow! (It turns out, peanuts don’t, at least not well in Minnesota.)

The medical conversations discuss now the end game strategy. And yet batteries, clocks, people, even baseball games can surprise you; sometimes they run longer than you expect. Life is amazing in so many ways, its verdancy and fecundity, its complexity and variation.

And its persistence. Life wants to be; it wants to continue.

07-21-2010Still, the radar picture is clear; there’s no dodging this one. Watching it approach slowly from far off, a satellite view spanning a decade, a measure of emotional hatch battening is possible.

At a certain age a basic, safely abstract, picture becomes clear: parents generally don’t — and certainly shouldn’t — outlive their children. There is an inexorable familial math, an equation that chains generations. We are bound in that chain and bound to mourn.

Bound, perhaps also, to tell their stories, to say how they live on in you, how they shaped and shape your life. We all tell the stories of our ancestors, even if only in wisps and hints. We are, because they were.

11-17-2012But these times now are not a story I plan to tell. It is not my nature, or the intent of this blog, to live my life online.

I’m old-school (in, oh, so many ways); the player’s mask stays. The road that led to here, to now, those stories I sometimes tell, but the storyteller is not the story.

There are stories, some funny, some sad, some instructive, about our past. When the time comes for commemoration, those are tales I may tell. But only in their time. And only maybe. In the end, the content should be the point, not the trappings.

For now, just know the awful storm looms on my horizon. The forecast is extremely uncertain.

"Oh, the stories this one tells!"

“Oh, the stories this one tells!”

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

20 responses to “All Things

  • Lisa

    My mother just turned 90 and looks frailer every day and is losing her short term memory. An uncertain clock is ticking on my mother-in-law. I don’t think misery loves company, but grief shared connects us with others in a profound way.

  • dianasschwenk

    Smitty. You are a wonderful story-teller. What a beautiful tribute to your parents – I am honoured you shared it with us.
    Diana xo

  • Jeff

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your parents. I’m sorry to hear of their troubles, but they truly sound like fighters. Good luck in what may come.

  • reocochran

    This took me awhile to think about, I ‘liked’ it and then moved on to another blog. I worry and hope for you to handle this without too much sadness. I also know there were times in your life, that you didn’t see eye to eye. I think that this way you wrote shows such love and also acceptance. I will try to not worry, that is my trait that annoys others, sometimes. My heart goes out to you, losing them both together may be a blessing for them, but not necessarily for you. Take care, Robin

  • dr. ken

    Very well said, sir. You gotta spend time with the family because they won’t be around forever. My dad starting to text is a game changer. We talk 10 times as much now. Does that sound awful? Like today we have been bullshitting all day about the u of illinois basketball game. Anyway, good post, buddy.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Well thank you, both for stopping by to read and comment and for the compliment! Our family is scattered around the country a bit, and we’ve been using email to great advantage in keeping up. My sister is particular good at sending out almost daily emails describing her day!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Dark skies. Word from California this afternoon is that the storm is here. A grim weather watch through the night and possibly into the next few days. Ages become… days, hours, minutes….

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Mom continues to linger, alive but unconscious. Sis held the phone to her ear while I tried to say good-bye. You think the years of expectation prepare you, but nothing really prepares you for this.

  • Lady from Manila

    Dearest Wyrd,

    Nothing…nothing in this world and life can ever prepare us for this kind of loss. I wish I knew the right words to say, but I don’t.

    It breaks my heart so much knowing you are currently going through all this.
    God bless your Mom and your Dad.

    Hugs to you, my friend… please stay strong.

    Love, Marj

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hi Marj — I’m trying. It’s been an agonizing week. Mom’s been unconscious since Sunday and we think at times in great pain. Looks like today might be the day. Just got off phone with sis; spoke in mom’s ear again. No, nothing prepares you.

      • Lady from Manila

        Yes…and I could understand and feel your pain. I’ve come back to this touching and exquisite post you wrote for them and reread it every now and then. Your Mom and Dad are also one of the most beautiful elderly couple I’ve seen online.

        Brace yourself, my dear friend. Although I know you are a hundred times stronger than me, the fact remains there’s no pain like losing a parent – especially your Mom who means the world to you.

        As I’ve said, I don’t have the skill to say the right words for this – if there are any.

        Take good care of yourself. My thoughts are with you.

        Love, Marj

  • Lady from Manila

    Oh my dear Wyrd…my dear friend…I’m so sorry to hear your Mom’s gone…I’m at a loss for words…

    She’s totally in peace now. No more pain for her – though it’ll linger to those she left behind.
    My heart goes out to you in this difficult period of your life. Please stay strong.

    God bless your Mom’s soul.

    Love, Marj

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