Bare trees, branches stretching out with thin limbs looking like reaching fingers. It’s late December in Georgia and my husband and I are driving home. We’ve spent the last week in Florida, visiting with my parents, and trying to catch up on two years that have been catalogued in phone calls and video chats.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Absence makes the heart also forget its resilience. Absence makes the heart forget the fragility of life and the frailty of human emotion.
It’s hard being close to fifty and walking into my parents’ home and not switching back into the role of the 16 year-old, sullen teenage girl who wants to write overdramatic, overemotional poetry. My parents are both in their mid 70’s. My father’s silvery hair frames his face that has been freckled with blooms of dark age spots. His skin has thinned and simple abrasions look like horrific bruises or that he was violently attacked.
I want to wrap my parents in anti-aging bubble wrap. In this last eighteen months, I have learned the bitter taste of regret. The line is that revenge is a dish best served up cold. But what is the temperature of regret? Lukewarm. A sense of what could have been, a lingering heat that has the sensation of the meal’s original tastiness? Is regret gluey and clumpy, much like microwaved fried, battered fast food that will be hot but has lost its original crispiness?
Driving through Georgia at winter sunset is looking at long fields the color of ochre. Tall grasses capped with burnt sienna. Hollow sunlight that lingers on the western horizon casts a pale, shallow yellow across an already washed out landscape.
I wish I could cling to the years and press them into my fists. Push and pull at the puddy of time and reform it. Give myself a bit more time with my family. No. They’re not dying. But I can see the aging and its neutral, unforgiving progression. The sense that words have more than one meaning and that each meaning must surrender its utmost importance. Because the calendar pages are limited.
I love my mother and my father. I love their tenderness. I love how each of them have poured themselves into me. I can hear my father’s voice in the fwishing out of the fishing line when I cast. The pride when my hook with its sinker plops into the water. I hear my mother’s voice in her brisk footsteps, in the way she sings softly to my great-nephew, her great-grandson.
Driving through Georgia in a winter sunset is feeling the horizon at my back and wanting to reach behind me and snap whatever wisps are there.