The 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.
There 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.
Hale 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.
Still, 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.
But 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.