Friday, July 26, 2013

We've got a cool spell here in St Louis this week, so much so that last night, it felt *fallish*, and the A/C was really too much.

Earlier today, my better half went to the river for playgroup with our kiddos, and the youngest about froze his little tuckus off. Seems a little odd for summertime? You betcha.

I just got back from a walk in the business park where I work, and got rained on for 20 minutes. To be fair, it was not your normal Missouri rain, mind you; if one were to walk in conventional MO rain for 20 min, they may as well lather up with soap and also utilize the time for personal hygiene. Point is, and all incidental commentary aside, this hebdomadal interlude in the middle of summer has felt like autumn.

It is as if the leaves should be changing, and the anthropomorphic shorts and tees in my wardrobe should begin to feel sheepish that they're still in use; they do not belong in chilly weather, alongside cider, oatmeal, and sweaters.

Yep, I am projecting. The fall is still some weeks off (Sept 22nd for you equinox-minded folk), but today *felt* like fall to me.

I love the fall. Truth is I have learned to love all four seasons; as a child winter meant snow forts, and cross country skiing, and bizzing on the back of cars; spring meant green and sports, and playing outside, with life returning all around me as I watched it. Summer meant shorts and lazy days with friends, and tree houses, popsicles, camping and fireworks. Fall meant the invariable trip back to school, with jack-o-lanterns, hunting, cider and cool air.

As I look at my own children, and the adults in embryo they already seem to be; I cant help but wonder what they'll look back on and see in these their current days. What will this summer meant to them? How about fall? And the other seasons? I hope that the family trips, and the play group trips, and the holidays, and the mundane day-to-day (fighting with each other, playing games, catching lightning bugs/turtles/fish, riding bikes) will coalesce into something they value as their childhood. That it'll distill into something like I had, a youth that was sweet with life experiences; because before too long they'll find themselves like me; a thirty something with babies of their own, looking back at their life and feeling as if it has quietly slipped along its path down the riverbed of time.

My stepfather passed away recently. He was diagnosed with stage 4 thoracic cancer (I heard the actual cancer name once, but I refuse to learn it/acknowledge it again). It was discovered when he went in to the doc back on Memorial Day because he had a sore throat. They ran test after test and with each revealed greater and more severe depths of the cancer. He refused treatment (oh, that I will be that tough!), he went home, spent time talking with all of us (I chatted with him on the phone twice; using wit both times to get him to laugh despite the seriousness of the situation), he made sure he told us he loved us, and he let go of this mortal coil. He returned to his God on his own terms.

I got to fly back home and be there for the funeral. In retrospect, I was conflicted; I was at times angry, I was sad, I was happy for him to be out of pain, I marveled at several taciturn facets of his life. I had my eyes opened to the man through several revelations in conversation form with my siblings and step siblings; I discovered he was an accomplished baseball player (I always knew he was passionate about the game, but had no idea this had brought him fame), I learned he was a quiet numismatist, I listeneed to stories about his youthful anger and how he mastered his passions. I believe he gathered wisdom and worked out his own salvation with his Maker.

Truth be told, I was out there for my mom; death takes those who are ready to make the journey, but leaves the living seeking their cry. She and I spent some time together and through that period, I found my own anchor in couching my own observations in my journal. I worked at her wish of cleaning out/organizing things; and made trips to the thrift store to donate items, journeyed to the dump to dispose clutter, labored sunburnt in the yard, and filled garbage can after garbage can; meantime soaking in all the conversations in between. I drove his truck. I went to lunch with my mom when she felt like it. I know it is what my step dad would have wanted.

The funny thing was, during the first couple of weeks, I caught myself on more than one occasion looking for him, remembering his laugh, listening for the sound of the garage door opening, his foot on the stairs, the jingle of his keys as he hung them on the hook in the kitchen.

Instead I had this sort of internal reflection back on the things he taught me about balancing the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual sides of myself. It was odd, but I slept in my old bedroom. And through it all I reconnected with my siblings and step siblings.

And coming out of it all on this side, two months later, I feel somehow lightened. Not the way that one lightens a sponge from its burden of water, not wrung out; rather I felt as if it was done the way one carefully empties a knapsack filled with delicate things. I had no idea my bag had been filled by handpicked stones, it would seem I had placed them there over time, and with my step dad's death, it felt right to begin to sort through them.

Most meant something at one point; hefted and placed into that sack due to some now-forgotten reason. I found most of them were now without meaning, and in studying them determined I could now simply let them go. As I look in retrospect to those weeks, the work, the conversations, and the time spent together after his death, allowed me to cast those stones out on the water, like so much bread.

Heavy writing, I know...I am no great fan of buzz words, and often laugh at their use, but this post has come about very organically for me. I can think of no other way to describe it.

My shirt, once damp from today's prologue fall rain, is now dry. My tears, spent grieving for my stepdad and my mom are also dry. I am looking forward to the fall, to the changing of the leaves, to the wearing of sweaters, to school starting again, to sweaters, and oatmeal and hunting. I am looking forward to life carrying on.

Meantime, thank you for reading these words. Hopefully they, like my stones cast out into the water, will return to me in another way.