One of those rare days where I end it feeling like I accomplished, not only what was on my “to do” list, but so much more. OK, the kitchen floor still didn’t get washed. When I left the house at 9:40 the outside temp was trying to rise above freezing, but considering we have been in negative to single digits for the last 40 day and 40 nights, I was optimistic. The weather forecast had promised mid-40°s dammit and I was a believer. I turned off the furnace and threw open the door to the back deck. The dogs and cats congregated suspiciously in the patches of bare wood, looking back at me as if to say, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Down the frost-heave riddled road to have lunch with my friend. He was at the breakfast table, finishing his tea and genuinely happy to see me. She and I fell into a rhythm of quick conversation, comfortably outlining what was to be done and how things were going since I had last visited. I had brought soup and though she had eggplant and noodles simmering, we decided that could be dinner so she wouldn’t have to cook when she returned in the evening. I marveled at the stock pile of fresh produce and such, discussed the price of milk at Connolly Brothers Dairy and washed his breakfast dishes while she made her breakfast.
We sat as the sun poured through the lace curtains, the breakfast room is my favorite place. She jokingly held up a photo across the table from me and asked, “Who’s this handsome guy.” It was him, at their wedding almost thirty years ago. He was stunning. She was no bigger than a minute and beautiful. The love for each other and life was the first thing I had noticed when we met.
After she left, we were still sitting at the table . He wanted to say hello to two boys who live on the farm and were passing the house. Today, he was so strong and balanced. Without his walker, just the aid of two canes, he shuffled out to the front door. I followed along not quite knowing if we were doing something beyond his limits. Once I’d propped the door open, he handed me a cane and started down the wide granite steps, grasping the hand-rail. I had no shoes on. We stopped on the top step, I thought, “This is good, we can say hello from here.” The boys were just returning across the field. They stopped to chat and he wanted to know when they were coming by to play cards again.
When they left, he stood tall, leaned slightly back and tipped his face to the sun. “This is wonderful. We shall walk.” He balanced against the railing while I jammed on my boots and grabbed a coat to wrap around him. He was in his slippers so we picked our way down the driveway on the dry spots. He wanted to look at my truck. I don’t think he is a fan of FORD but he wasn’t impolite about it. As we walked back, he pointed out a wooden bench under a sugar maple. “Too bad we couldn’t sit there.” It was only about half emerged from the snow. The chickens were out scratching in the meager earth in front of the coop. He admired them and relaxed as we stood watching. When I commented on how warm it felt to have the temps in the 40s, he pronounced, “I don’t know z degrees like that. What does it mean in European?” Then he sang me a part of a german opera he said was called Martha.
For the entire time I am there, with him, with them, the world and my mind just stop. I am so totally in the moment and aware of every sensation. Time moves only as fast as is necessary to accomplish the simple tasks of standing, walking, eating, talking.
We had our lunch of Hungarian Mushroom soup, leafy green salad with a creamy home-made dressing, fresh fruit and berries, and crusty bread and butter. I laid it in the breakfast room using his wooden plates. I love the simplicity and utility of them.
I had plans for the afternoon, just as we finished a friend stopped in to help him to bed for a nap. As I walked back out to my truck, retracing our earlier journey, I took a deep breath and slowed my steps. Nothing was so urgent that I should rush.
We are all dying. Some faster than the rest of us. Since we have no crystal ball, only the obvious ones seem to get our attention. Yes, he is dying, but so am I and so are you. And as another friend said recently, “I’m going to live ’til I die…not a moment more, not a moment less.”
I need to be reminded of that often…