Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Glorious Autumn

It's the last day in September. We're into our packed fall schedule heading into October, November, December and the run-up to Christmas and New Year's. But this year feels different. I can't quite put my finger on why, but it seems somehow meloncholy.

Maybe it's the events of the past twelve months which tore our economy apart and left us all to try to stay above water till things returned to "normal." But this recession-depression-calamity hasn't seemed like others I remember. This time I could see the pain on faces, feel the panic of friends and neighbors, and finally be affected personally by Barbara's lessened support for her teaching work and more cutbacks at her school. I'm sure that's part of what I feel now as September Song comes to an end.

And also maybe it's the loss of both Mom and Dad within six weeks of each other a year ago beginning at Halloween. We flew to Indiana for each funeral, of course. On October 31 the fall foliage was ablaze and glorious. Dad loved the leaves and took many beautiful photos and videos of them for decades around our county and down at the Salamonie Reservoir and State Park. Glorious, glorious autumn. Crisp, pumpkin weather, a bright sunny chill in the air, the old brick Bingham farmhouse now converted into a flower shop. I thought at the time as so many old friends came to pay their respects, "Well, you did it, didn't you, Dad. You brought us back to our autumn and family and friends we hadn't seen for years. It was a shame it had to be like this, but it is somehow your hand in it all, and I'll bet you are smiling down this day. Dad treasured family and friends above everything.

Mom died at the start of January, and when we flew up for the funeral it was snowing everywhere, and very beautiful and very cold. Mark and Scott made snowmen and snow angels at the motel parking lot, and we got some snow disks at Walmart and slid down the big hill at Memorial Park, grown men turned ten again. We gave the snow disks to some real children when we left for the airport; there was nowhere left in Huntington for our possessions then, with the house long sold, we couldn't pack them for the flight home, and what would we do with snow disks in South Florida? The stark maples and elms and firs were black and twiggy against the glaring white blanket that covered all as we laid her to rest beside Dad's grave, barely settled and still fresh earth. And again the good friends and family made their way to pay their respects with us and renew our stories and our bonds. Mom and Dad had planned their final arrangements years earlier, and done so well it was inspiring.

Barb's brother, Stephen--my firstborn's namesake--, had been the folks' living will executor and taken care of just about everything for many years as they fell victim to Alzheimers and the infirmities of age and needed nursing home care. He lived with his wife just 22 miles away, and everything fell to him to care for them, sell the house, pay the bills and manage. He did a Herculean and wonderful job of it, and his city manager skills of balancing many things at once served him well. There was little we could do but try to be supportive of his decisions. We were 1,200 miles away in Florida and could only visit the home town Barb and I both grew up in once or twice a year.

This summer for the first time in many years we didn't go to Huntington. And now a year has passed since the sweet sadness of autumn and winter of the previous October and January.

We are headed for Mackenzie's ninth birthday party this weekend, and we'll be with Dr. Steve and his lovely wife Rhonda, Christopher, who just turned twelve in August, and the birthday girl. who just may be the most beautiful granddaughter in the world.

Then we're flying to New York this Halloween to see the Central Park's autumn at its peak, which is supposed to be the last two weeks of October and the first week in November. Scott is looking forward to some fall foliage photography with his new high resolution camera. (Sound familiar?) Something pulled at me to go also, something hard to explain. Something abiding. Family. Love. Continuity. Circles unbroken. But I really wanted to, and talked Barb into it. She can scarcely afford the two days off work, but one's a teacher workday. She'll go, with our middle son Scott and me over Halloween weekend and we'll be together with Mark, our youngest, with the family again, in autumn. Glorious, glorious autumn.