My friend is moving to another city today. Some of those things that she once treasured, she has given to friends, some items are in another friend’s garage sale, the trash man will haul off other parts of her life. Those fiction books filled with mystery and intrigue took up a whole shelf but yesterday she sat on a footstool and stared at the titles and wondered why she and Will ever thought reading them was worth their time. The books have gone to a used book store. She is only keeping those little things that she believes she will need to keep her life together. She knew she couldn’t cram fifty years of living into a condominium in that big city where her son lives, so she put some of those things that were once so special out by the curb. She hoped someone would think those random objects were valuable and load them up and drive away.
She has shed a few tears about leaving the house her husband bought so long ago but reason told her that it was time to go; to move on. Her new life will be close to a son and his wife that live several miles down the road. There will be no reason to come this way again. And so we said good-bye yesterday over lunch at our favorite place although she didn’t seem to have much of an appetite.
“Come on,” I said. “I’m picking up the check. This is your chance.” I laughed at her solemn face and she forced a smile but left her plate with the food hardly touched. “I’m really tired,” she told me, repeating the sentence several times before she left.
When the movers had gone and her silver Honda was loaded up and ready to head down the Interstate, she must have wondered inside her head, “Is this the right thing to do? Should I leave this life behind and seek another somewhere down the road? I am leaving so much - so many great memories. But it is time for me to go.”
She took the wooden box with her husband’s ashes and placed it on the passenger seat, and sat down behind the wheel. For a minute there, with the sun high overhead and a slight breeze moving the leaves of that big elm tree that Will had planted, she put both arms on the steering wheel and cried. Visions of parties in that house, with vinyl records spinning round and round and trumpets and clarinets crying out into the night as they used to do so long ago flashed before her eyes and the sounds spun around until she started the car’s engine and backed out of the driveway. As she drove her car down the street that she knew so well, the ancient oaks lining the way seemed to shake down memories at every street crossing. There were so many nights to remember like the times they sat up ‘til the sun came through a little window in the den and they were still sitting there laughing and listening to the music. That is all that we have at the end of days...the memories. And she had them all.
In a little while the son will drive up to the cracked driveway, park beneath the ancient oaks and walk across the yellow leaves littering the cracked cement. Once inside, he’ll say, “Come on Mother. It’s time to go” And he will look at his Iphone, check out the time and urge Mother forward to the waiting Ford Escape idling at the curb. Time is important for him. He is still young enough to think that hurrying through life is what matters. He thinks that getting home for dinner is important, not that golden and red sunset settling across the western sky. Maybe before it is too late, he’ll know better. Right now he is very important. Once the baby in the family, he will be the controlling factor in his mother’s life from now on.
The time has come for my friend that will almost assuredly come to everyone and yes, to me as well. When life is just too complicated to live it alone, somebody else has to take over. A 75 year old begins to think about it; an 85 year old feels the hot breath of the end of days; a 90 year old begins to wonder about what the next year will tell; at 100 you become a ‘wonder’ to be stared at. But at the end, it doesn’t matter at all how you used up your time. Death and taxes….you know the rest of that story.
So for today, I’m going to walk with my blind Poodle down the road to the mailbox. After early morning coffee, I’m going to just sit in a recliner and watch an old black and white movie on Turner Classic Movies. Whenever I feel like it, I’m going to mop the kitchen floor and water the plants on the sun porch. I might make breakfast from a carton of cottage cheese and a can of crushed pineapple. If I feel like it, I’ll take a ten minute nap and then go to “smart” phone and see who sent me a message on Face Book. Finally just before the day is done, I’m going to pour myself a glass of red wine and sit on the back porch a long time watching the cattle and horses grazing out there in the Coastal field that Tom sprigged so long ago.
Life has been a great ride so far and when the time comes to pack up and move on, I’ll go. But not without my heels dragging in the sand.
Joyce Whitis is a freelance writer who has contributed to the E-T since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 968-8450.