Category Archives: Love and Loss

Life is Good…Mostly

IMG_7997I own a handful of trendy t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan: LIFE IS GOOD. I wear them because they’re ridiculously soft, they feature stick figures with infectious smiles and, quite frankly, because I like the upbeat message they send to the big, bad world. Often times, people will stop me in the grocery store or post office, point at my shirt and nod in agreement: “Yeah, life is good, isn’t it!” which is great, because sometimes I’m the one that needs a reminder.

That said, sometimes life is downright ugly—like right now, as the wheels fly off this crazed election and increasingly hateful rhetoric spews from otherwise civilized and compassionate people. I am no exception. Life is not only ugly, it’s also heartbreaking and undeniably unjust because senseless violence continues to ravage the globe, hurricanes, floods and fires strike unmercifully and so many people I love grapple with cancer, or Alzheimer’s or any number of other devastating diseases. Neighbors move away. Parents and beloved pets die. Friends endure unspeakable adversity—including, but not limited to financial ruin, crippling addictions or, heaven forbid, having to bury a child. What’s more, marriages fail, suicides happen and people I care about become broken for a host of reasons.

I suppose that loss—sometimes more than people can bear—comes with the territory, an unwelcome side effect of this thing called life. Strangely enough, the more sorrow I experience, the more difficult it seems to manage on a personal level, each event affecting me more deeply than the last. You’d think that by now coping with it would be a walk in the park for me—something distinctly unpleasant, yet easy to accept because, if nothing else, it’s familiar. Admittedly, I sometimes stay in bed and hide from the world—especially on days when sadness and negativity threaten to consume me, convinced that by avoiding reality somehow it will cease to exist.

Of course, avoidance is only temporary. It does nothing to change what is real. So I shake my fist at God, infuriated by the fact that bad things happen to good people each and every day—despite denial, despite rage and despite prayers.

And then, as the sun rises, a funny thing happens. My dog ambles over to my bedside and shoves his head and warm muzzle into my hand, demanding to be petted, acknowledged, and eventually, fed since it’s time for breakfast. I then crawl on the floor and spend a few moments rubbing his impossibly soft ears and talking with him about all the important things in his life—the walk we’ll take later, his renowned affinity for squirrels and how great his scrambled eggs will taste. Yes, my dog eats scrambled eggs. Don’t judge.IMG_6206

At any rate, somewhere between hugging him and caressing the leathery pads on his feet my mind is flooded with what can only be described as gratitude. Indeed, I can’t imagine life without the rescue dog my family and I decided to adopt more than two years ago—our black lab-mix with the grizzled face and unsteady gait. Nor can I take for granted the other loveable beasts that reside here, never mind that our curly-haired, pint-sized yapper is decidedly neurotic and that our cat gives him plenty to be neurotic about.

From there, it mushrooms into recognizing all the good that has come into my life—all the people for whom I am thankful and all the experiences I’m glad to have had. I think of my husband, a man who has been my best friend for more than 20 years, the love of my life and my soft spot to land when the universe spirals out of control. I think of my three children who are talented, bright and most importantly, kind—ever so grateful that I get to be their mom. I think of all the people who touch their lives daily and I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of indebtedness. I think of my treasured friends, my church family and how fortunate I am to have the lot of them in my life.

Of course, I’m happy to have a roof overhead, food in my pantry and the sweet refuge of music and books, too. But mainly it’s the people that remind me that life is, indeed, good…mostly.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably wearing a LIFE IS GOOD t-shirt). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Depraved New World, Gratitude, Love and Loss

Daughters and Dads: Love and Loss

IMG_0232I hated feeling powerless. As if there was nothing I could do to positively affect anything in the universe, let alone my dad’s pain and suffering. Yet that’s exactly how I felt as I stood beside my ailing father’s bedside after his stroke, holding his hand, attempting to interpret his garbled speech, pausing briefly to take in the jumbled masses of wires and tubes that were now heinously tethered to him, wondering like crazy why he couldn’t move his left side and why his eyes seemed drawn only to the light coming from the window and not to my face, which was surely fraught with dread.

I remember he called me “Sweetheart” when I first entered the room and he turned his head toward the sound of my voice as I moved closer. He kept straining to see the sky behind me, his dark eyes darting back and forth and looking right past me, never really focusing on anything—which seemed odd to me at the time. Maybe he was unable to see, I later thought. Again and again he tried to climb out of bed, telling us all he had things to do, occupied always with the notion that life wasn’t meant to be lived as an idle person.

He seemed so small lying there, a shell of the man I remembered from my childhood. Alzheimer’s had stolen so much more than his memory, and now the stroke had taken what was left. I remember feeling cheated—as if I were losing him in bits and pieces, and even the pieces I no longer recognized were being taken from me in some cruel twist of fate.

Just that morning I had talked with him on the phone, after his fall. It was five days before Christmas and his caregiver had called me, alerting me to the news. He seemed fine aside from a horrendous headache and a few distorted words here and there, sounding as if he were chewing on a bit of gravel as he spoke. But that was the Alzheimer’s, wasn’t it? It was also possible he had hit his mouth on something during the fall, causing his lips to swell, making it difficult to speak. Wasn’t it?

“Dad, did you bump your mouth this morning? When you fell?”

No. He hadn’t. Why couldn’t I just hit the rewind button and revisit our conversation? Did I tell him I loved him? I can’t be sure. I do remember telling him that my husband was on another phone calling an ambulance and that it would be there soon. The people at the hospital would get him all patched up. Just like new. I promised.

Not surprisingly, I had a number of angry discussions with God that week about the unfairness of it all. About how desperately (almost incredulously) I wanted things to return to the fucked-up “normal” I knew—the life that came to be defined by a certain uncertainty. Some moments in time, I was his wife. Other times, his mother. And when the Almighty was smiling upon me, I was his daughter. I’d even settle for the days during which he informed me he never had a daughter, as deeply as that hurt. Needless to say, I longed to see him get up out of his favorite chair and make his way across the living room to hug me when I visited, welcoming me with a warm and genuine embrace. Always. I could envision him in his khakis, pinstriped oxford shirt and matching sweater, the most dapper 80-year-old man I knew—clean-shaven, a splash of cologne and a smile. This was, of course, a testament to Agatha, his caregiver, who knew how important his appearance was to his happiness.

At any rate, as the week wore on I found myself bartering with God, eager to hear my dad tell me how his day was going, even if that meant acknowledging his addled state and mixed-up reality. I wanted to talk about the apple crumb pie and pumpkin cookies I planned to bring on Christmas Day, about how lovable our dogs were, about the ridiculous dearth of snow this winter. Again and again I replayed the details of the last day I had spent with him before the stroke, trying like mad to harvest it from the depths of my mind. Vividly I recall sitting next to him on the couch as darkness fell, both of our faces bathed in the soft glow of Christmas lights that enveloped the tiny tree my mom used to decorate. Who knew this would be the only year of my entire life that I wouldn’t spend at least some portion of the holiday with him? It would be only the second Christmas without Mom.IMG_0130

But the doctors didn’t know everything, did they? Surely they didn’t know my father. He had overcome a frightening bout with hypothermia and frostbite following last November’s near dawn excursion through the neighborhood—sans shoes. Hunters had found him a quarter mile from his house, huddled in a rock-strewn ditch, badly bruised and cut. Months later, he bounced back. He had survived the loss of his true love—his wife of 56 years to cancer as well as his son’s suicide almost a decade earlier. He weathered the loss of his beloved father at the tender age of 19 and battled the horribleness of dementia every damn day since his diagnosis, managing to preserve both his dignity and his sense of humor. No small feat.

Nope. The neurosurgeons didn’t know my dad. And I hated discussing his prognosis with them over his bed, so we went to a little room filled with a smattering of chairs and an enormous conference table—the place where we reviewed his CAT scans, tried to digest the awful news and cried into the box of tissues they reflexively offered. I wondered how many times they had done this before, shared the dim outlook with the next of kin, pointed to the screen and tried to make us understand that things would never be the same. My husband and I emerged from the room shaken, saddened and numb to an extent. One foot testing the waters of reality, one still squarely planted in denial.

That said, I can’t imagine my dad would have liked all the hubbub—the constant whir of activity in and out of his ICU room, the annoying buzzes and blips of machinery, the squawk of the intercom, the helicopter landings on the roof, the incessant poking and prodding of his veins, the hideous crown of wires atop his head. He seemed plagued by frustration wrapped in angst, as if he were lost in a deep forest, separated from all that was familiar and good by an impossibly dense thicket that he couldn’t manage to escape despite his best efforts. And he was trying; there is no doubt. I studied his face, even as his eyes were closed, and watched his restless body struggle amidst the tangled wood to find a way home. And I could do absolutely nothing to help him, which was the hardest part. All I could do was tousle his hair, hold his hand and tell him I loved him. On my last day at the hospital, during a rare moment when everyone happened to have left the room, I whispered in his ear the message that it was okay if he had to go. I let him know that we would be alright and told him, once more, how much we loved him. It was not a Christmas Eve message I had ever envisioned delivering to my father.

Late that afternoon, it was clear he wasn’t coming home. He had had another “neurological event,” as his failingsIMG_0211 were not-so-affectionately termed. And there were decisions to be made. Hard decisions. I remember sobbing alone in my car on the way home, pounding the steering wheel and shouting at God, at my dad, at the meadows enshrouded in fog at the edge of twilight. It was hard to see the road through my tears, let alone the milky mist that hugged the tree line, and I vowed to continue my sob-fest in the shower—the very best place to cry, apart from my husband’s shoulders.

Christmas Day was a supreme challenge. I tried to be cheery as a mom and a wife, watching my kids unwrap their gifts and graze on the ham we had planned to take to my dad’s later that day, but it was difficult. To say that I was preoccupied was an understatement. I felt impossibly torn, wanting to spend time with my family making holiday memories, wanting to be there for my dad should he rouse from his slumber-like state, somehow benefitting from my presence at his bedside.

He died the next morning, removing from my plate the awful choices I would have had to make, erasing from my mind the all-consuming worry and torment over what the future held, opening the door for me to grieve his passing and to celebrate a life well lived—which is how he would’ve wanted it, I’m sure. Looking back, I wish I could’ve been there for him at the moment of death, but it was not to be.

I never thought I’d be glad that I chose to view his broken body, but I am. His face clearly revealed that he was at peace. There were no more wires or tubes, no more struggles to swallow or to speak. No more frantic searches for the life and people he once knew. At the very least, I could be comforted by that—knowing he had made it out of the darkened woods and was finally home with those he sought for so very long.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Love and Loss, Sandwich Generation

Hands Upon My Heart

www.melindawentzel.comWhen I was nine or ten, I remember being enthralled with my mother’s hands. They were delicate and slender, sweetly scented and rose petal-soft—so completely unlike my own nicked and scraped, callused and chafed boy-like hands that were better suited for wielding a hammer and throwing a fastball than anything else. Mine were distinctively earthy, too, largely because remnants of dirt and grass simply refused to be removed. Or at least that was the sentiment I held for much of the summer. It was a byproduct of being a kid, literally immersed in a world of sod and soil from sunup to sundown. Never mind my fondness of forests and rocky places, typifying a deep and abiding bond with nature—one that I’m not quite sure my mother ever completely understood.

At any rate, my hands told who I was at the time—a tomboy given to tree climbing, stealing second base and collecting large and unwieldy rocks. Everyone’s hands, I’d daresay, depict them to a certain degree, having a story to tell and a role to play at every time and place on the continuum of life. Traces of our journey remain there in the folds of our skin—from the flat of our palms and knobs of our knuckles to the very tips of our fingers.

Hands are the tools with which we shape the world. They define us to an extent—as sons and daughters, providers and professionals, laborers and learners. That said, I’m intrigued by people’s hands and the volumes they speak—whether they’re mottled with the tapestry of age, vibrant and fleshy or childlike and impossibly tender. Moreover, I find that which they whisper difficult to ignore.

Likewise, I’m fascinated by the notion that ordinary hands routinely perform extraordinary deeds day in and day out, ostensibly touching all that truly matters to me. Like the hands that steer the school bus each morning, the hands that maintain law and order throughout the land, the hands at the helm in the event of fire or anything else that smacks of unspeakable horribleness, the hands that deftly guide my children through the landscape of academia, the hands that bolster them on the soccer field, court and poolside, the hands that bless them each day and the hands that brought immeasurable care and comfort to our family pet in his final hours. Strange as it sounds, I think it’s important to stop and think about such things. Things that I might otherwise overlook when the harried pace of the world threatens to consume me.

If nothing else, giving pause makes me mindful of the good that has come to pass and grateful to the countless individuals who continue to make a difference simply by putting their hands to good use. For whatever reason, this serves to ground me and helps me put into perspective how vastly interdependent and connected we are. Indeed, we all have a hand (as well as a stake) in what will be.

Equally important is the notion of remembering what was. There’s nothing quite as memorable as the hands of those I’ve lost—like my grandfather’s. His were more like mitts—large and leathery, weathered and warm. Working hands with an ever-present hint of grease beneath his hardened nails, and the distinctive scent of hay and horses that clung to him long after he left the barn. And although decades have passed, I can still see him pulling on his boots, shuffling a deck of cards and scooping tobacco from his pouch—his thick fingers diligently working a stringy wad into the bowl of his pipe, followed shortly thereafter by a series of gritty strikes of the lighter and wafts of sweet smoke mingling reluctantly with those from the kitchen.

Not surprisingly, I can still summon an image of my brother’s hands, too. They were handsome, lean and mannish-looking—yet something suggestive of the little boy he had once been lingered there. Needless to say, I am grateful for such delicious memories—the ones indelibly etched upon my heart.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering the hands that have touched my life). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2013 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Gratitude, Love and Loss

The Road Less Traveled

www.melindawentzel.comI remember it as if I were standing before it this very moment—the dirt road behind my childhood home that snaked through the mossy woods, carving a narrow, road-not-taken-inspired path along the base of a deep ravine, sheltered from the sun and from civilization it seemed. The place where a large and delicious chunk of my youth was spent surrounded by the pungent aroma of pine mixed with the earthy scent of decaying leaves and the ever-present drone of the creek that flowed nearby.

It was my Secret Garden. My sanctuary of sycamores, silver and red maples. My quiet corner of the world where I could commune with nature and collect my thoughts—one blissfully restorative trek at a time. Of course, I whiled away the hours there, exploring every inch of the road’s gritty surface, the rock-strewn banks of the creek and the heavily wooded hillside that was enshrouded with a verdant canopy of foliage in the thick of summer and dappled with patches of sunlight when the wispy green of spring first emerged. Season after season, I was drawn there, swallowed whole by its quiet grandeur, inextricably immersed in the sweet salvation of solitude and unstructured play. Alone but never quite lonely. The Last Child in the Woods, perhaps.

Eventually, though, my brother tagged along, curious to discover what was so special about this half-mile stretch of road and haven of towering trees that lapped at its fringes. He, too, became enthralled with all that it had to offer—untold numbers of fossils to inspect and collect, intriguing salamanders and caterpillars at every turn, ideally secluded spots for building clubhouses and spying on the occasional passerby, and perhaps most notably, an unforgiving and impossibly narrow footpath perched high atop a ridge where the region’s entirety could be viewed with ease. Naturally, there was an abundance of tree hollows, too, perfectly suited for stowing the trappings of childhood (i.e. spare jackknives, cap guns and spears we had fashioned from fallen branches).

On the cusp of spring, when the sun had finally begun to thaw the road and its deep, frozen furrows of mud, we’d barrel down the gully—half running, half sliding through the slushy snow that stubbornly clung to the ground and to the craggy tree trunks—eager to return to our long and winding road of dirt and stone. The summers we spent there—foraging through the woods, hiding out in our ramshackle forts and letting our dog run free—were ravenously consumed, chapters of our lives that I won’t soon forget. Never mind that my brother is no longer here to share such memories.

But if I could somehow turn back the time almost nine years—the ones that have felt like nine minutes—I’d remind him of a day in late autumn, when he couldn’t have been more than nine. It was an afternoon much like those we’ve experienced of late—a sun-drenched, breezy, balmy Indian summer gift—only the leaves back then had long since burst with color, painting the blue skies with fiery shades of orange and red. Not surprisingly, we were on the dirt road together. Back and forth we raced and chased along our favorite stretch, the tall trees roaring and swaying in the wind, tousling our hair and casting great swirls of leaves into the air for what seemed an eternity. Leaves we desperately tried to catch before they hit the ground. Because, of course, that was the whole point.

Of all the memories I’ve harvested involving my brother and our beloved dirt road, it is among my most cherished.

So as I witness my own children this autumn, completely engrossed in the rapture of chasing, leaping and wildly grabbing fistfuls of sky in an attempt to cleanly snatch the leaves before they fall to the street, drunk with joy and seizing the moment, instantly I return to the place I loved as a child and to the delicious day I spent with my brother.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering well the road less traveled, and recognizing that it has made all the difference). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, A Tree is Nice, Growing Pains, Love and Loss

A Walk to Remember

photo
I remember the walk with my mom as if it were yesterday. The towering pines stretched with all their might into the vast expanse of blue above, touching what had to be the floor of heaven itself. The half-foot of snow that had fallen the night before glistened in the afternoon sun and crunched beneath our feet as we wended our way to my brother’s grave.
It was a good day to say “hello” to him, our faces warm and ruddy from the trek, and our spirits buoyed by what was surely a whisper of spring in those boughs of evergreen.
I can still see her merrily trudging along, nearly swallowed by her red, winter coat and hood, a tinier version of the woman I remember as a child since cancer had begun its dreaded course of consumption. Nevertheless, she wore a smile and the most striking hue of lipstick…red, of course, echoing the beauty that emanated from within. The mom I knew and loved was still here, walking and talking with me, soaking up the sun, drinking in the sky, which was impossibly blue, eager to seize the day.
I don’t recall exactly what we talked about on that wintry jaunt, but I remember being genuinely happy and inordinately grateful, thinking, quite simply, “This is one of those moments in life where everything is perfect, despite life’s inherent imperfection and the unbearable nature of loss that no one can escape, because I get to spend this delicious wedge of time with my mom.”
Copyright 2014 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Gratitude, Love and Loss

Hands Upon My Heart

www.melindawentzel.comWhen I was nine or ten, I remember well my enthrallment with my mother’s hands. They were delicate and slender, sweetly scented and rose petal-soft—so completely unlike my own nicked and scraped, callused and chafed boy-like hands that were better suited for wielding a hammer and throwing a fastball than anything else. Mine were distinctively earthy, too, largely because remnants of dirt and grass simply refused to be removed. Or at least that was the sentiment I held for much of the summer. It was a byproduct of being a kid, I suppose, literally immersed in a world of sod and soil from sunup to sundown. Never mind my fondness of forests and rocky places, which typified a deep and abiding bond with nature—one that I’m not quite sure my mother ever completely understood.

At any rate, my hands told of who I was at the time—a tomboy given to tree climbing, stealing second base and collecting large and unwieldy rocks. Everyone’s hands, I’d daresay, depict them to a certain degree, having a story to tell and a role to play at every time and every place on the continuum of life. Traces of our journey remain there in the folds of our skin—from the flat of our palms and knobs of our knuckles to the very tips of our fingers. As it should be, I suppose.

For better or for worse, our hands are the tools with which we shape the world and to some extent they define us—as sons and daughters, providers and professionals, laborers and learners, movers and shakers. That said, I’m intrigued by people’s hands and the volumes they speak—whether they’re mottled with the tapestry of age, vibrant and fleshy or childlike and impossibly tender. Moreover, I find that which they whisper difficult to ignore.

Likewise, I’m fascinated by the notion that ordinary hands routinely perform extraordinary deeds day in and day out, ostensibly touching all that truly matters to me. Like the hands that steer the school bus each morning, the hands that maintain law and order throughout the land, the hands at the helm in the event of fire or anything else that smacks of unspeakable horribleness, the hands that deftly guide my children through the landscape of academia, the hands that bolster them on the soccer field, balance beam, court and poolside, the hands that bless them at the communion rail each week and the hands that brought immeasurable care and comfort to our family pet in his final hours. Strange as it sounds, I think it’s important to stop and think about such things. Things that I might otherwise overlook when the harried pace of the world threatens to consume me.

If nothing else, giving pause makes me mindful of the good that has come to pass and grateful to the countless individuals who continue to make a difference simply by putting their hands to good use. For whatever reason, this serves to ground me and helps me put into perspective how vastly interdependent and connected we are as a whole. Indeed, we all have a hand (as well as a stake) in what will be.

Equally important, methinks, is the notion of remembering what was. More specifically, the uniqueness of those I’ve loved and lost. A favorite phrase. A special look. The warmth of a smile or the joy of their laughter. Further (and in keeping with the thrust of this piece), there’s nothing quite as memorable as the hands of those I’ve lost—like my grandfather’s. His were more like mitts, actually—large and leathery, weathered and warm. Working hands with an ever-present hint of grease beneath his hardened nails, and the distinctive scent of hay and horses that clung to him long after he left the barn. And although decades have passed, I can still see him pulling on his boots, shuffling a deck of cards and scooping tobacco from his pouch—his thick fingers diligently working a stringy wad into the bowl of his pipe, followed shortly thereafter by a series of gritty strikes of the lighter and wafts of sweet smoke mingling reluctantly with those from the kitchen.

Of course, my grandmothers’ hands were equally memorable. One had short, stubby fingers and a penchant for biting her nails to the nub. Always, it seemed, she was hanging wash out on the line, scrubbing dishes or stirring a pot brimming with macaroni—my favorite form of sustenance on the planet. By contrast, my other grandmother suffered the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis as evidenced by her hands. To this day I can picture a set of finely manicured nails at the tips of her smallish fingers—fingers that were gnarled and bent unmercifully, although they never seemed to be hampered when it came to knitting a wardrobe for my beloved Barbies.

Not surprisingly, I can still summon an image of my brother’s hands, too. Almost instantly. They were handsome, lean and mannish-looking—yet something suggestive of the little boy he had once been lingered there. Needless to say, I am grateful for such delicious memories—the ones indelibly etched upon my heart.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering well the hands that have touched my life). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Love and Loss, Mushy Stuff

The Road Less Traveled

www.melindawentzel.comI remember it as if I were standing before it this very moment—the dirt road behind my childhood home that snaked through the mossy woods, carving a narrow, road-not-taken-inspired path along the base of a deep ravine, sheltered from the sun and from civilization it seemed. The place where a large and delicious chunk of my youth was spent surrounded by the pungent aroma of pine mixed with the earthy scent of decaying leaves and the ever-present drone of the creek that flowed nearby.

It was my Secret Garden. My sanctuary of sycamores, silver and red maples. My quiet corner of the world where I could commune with nature and collect my thoughts—one blissfully restorative trek at a time. Of course, I whiled away the hours there, exploring every inch of the road’s gritty surface, the rock-strewn banks of the creek and the heavily wooded hillside that was enshrouded with a verdant canopy of foliage in the thick of summer and dappled with patches of sunlight when the wispy green of spring first emerged. Season after season, I was drawn there, swallowed whole by its quiet grandeur, inextricably immersed in the sweet salvation of solitude and unstructured play. Alone but never quite lonely. The Last Child in the Woods, perhaps.

Eventually, though, my brother tagged along, curious to discover what was so special about this half-mile stretch of road and haven of towering trees that lapped at its fringes. He, too, became enthralled with all that it had to offer—untold numbers of fossils to inspect and collect, intriguing salamanders and caterpillars at every turn, ideally secluded spots for building clubhouses and spying on the occasional passerby, and perhaps most notably, an unforgiving and impossibly narrow footpath perched high atop a ridge where the region’s entirety could be viewed with ease. Naturally, there was an abundance of tree hollows, too, perfectly suited for stowing the trappings of childhood (i.e. spare jackknives, cap guns and spears we had fashioned from fallen branches).

On the cusp of spring, when the sun had finally begun to thaw the road and its deep, frozen furrows of mud, we’d barrel down the gully—half running, half sliding through the slushy snow that stubbornly clung to the ground and to the craggy tree trunks—eager to return to our long and winding road of dirt and stone. The summers we spent there—foraging through the woods, hiding out in our ramshackle forts and letting our dog run free—were ravenously consumed, chapters of our lives that I won’t soon forget. Never mind that my brother is no longer here to share such memories.

But if I could somehow turn back the time almost seven years—the ones that have felt like seven minutes—I’d remind him of a day in late autumn, when he couldn’t have been more than nine. It was an afternoon much like those we’ve experienced of late—a sun-drenched, breezy, balmy Indian summer gift—only the leaves back then had long since burst with color, painting the blue skies with fiery shades of orange and red. Not surprisingly, we were on the dirt road together. Back and forth we raced and chased along our favorite stretch, the tall trees roaring and swaying in the wind, tousling our hair and casting great swirls of leaves into the air for what seemed an eternity. Leaves we desperately tried to catch before they hit the ground. Because, of course, that was the whole point.

Of all the memories I’ve harvested involving my brother and our beloved dirt road, it is among my most cherished.

So as I witness my own children this autumn, completely engrossed in the rapture of chasing, leaping and wildly grabbing fistfuls of sky in an attempt to cleanly snatch the leaves before they fall to the street, drunk with joy and seizing the moment, instantly I return to the place I loved as a child and to the delicious day I spent with my brother.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering well the road less traveled, and recognizing that it has made all the difference). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, A Tree is Nice, Love and Loss