As the summer sun faded from the sky, I couldn’t help but think about endings. My youngest children frolicked in the pool and I thought about death. Perhaps my reading of East of Eden cast a pall over the dusk, but I thought about my dad, so long gone, and about his last summer. We had no idea it was his last summer, of course, because we were all so sure that he would outlive the doctor’s predictions (“four months to two years”).
If he’d been in the plastic pool chair next to me tonight, I thought, what would we say? Probably nothing profound. The grief over what was lost already would silence us.
I watched my children, soaked in the moment and wanted to cry. The moment couldn’t last. Even now, summer flees and my baby girl has lost two baby teeth. On the way home, Zachary quizzed her, checking to see if she believes in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Cupid. (Cupid?) He scoffed at his friend who believes in all the mythical childhood characters–and I said, “Don’t spoil it for him.” And he said, “I won’t.”
I thought how my dad’s life never intersected my children’s lives. How sad that they never met. He died four years before my oldest children were born.
The vivid sense of the momentary nature of life reminds me that all this–the endless laundry, the Shasta daisies smiling in the corner of the yard, water droplets dripping from my tan children–all of it will be gone. I think of my grandmother, lying in a bed in the center of my cousin’s family room, clinging to life, barely, on her 102nd birthday–the challenges of raising six children during the Depression, the delight of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the sorrow of watching her husband of 62 years die from the ravages of bone cancer–all of that burned away like fog on a summer day. Momentary troubles, momentary joy.
I know I am mortal. I don’t mind getting old, except for the age spots on my hands, the hairs sprouting on my chin and the touchiness of my lower back, but I don’t want to die. I want to gather my life into my arms, greedy for more, and refuse to loosen my grip.