It’s been a beautiful weekend. Friday was especially delightful. It was sunny and a little cool but nice, very nice. Still, for some reason I couldn’t shake a mild case of the doldrums. I even ate lunch with a good friend, the kind you can jump from topic to topic with, and neither of you get confused or lost. Still, the feeling lingered.
My sister and her husband Allen came over to bring a table, and when I saw her walking away, there it was again, that twinge of something. I visited the Red Door Thrift Boutique and then headed to the eye doctor’s office for some contacts. When I walked out into the sunshine and felt the moderate temperature and the gentle breeze, I thought of how weird and wonderful it was to be experiencing this kind of weather in February.
Driving out of the parking lot, I had a quick impression of my parents and of how they had lived in Camden all of their adult lives. They had both visited this very office and driven the city streets day after day, year after year. Had they too enjoyed looking at the parks on either side of Laurens Street as they left Dr. Moore’s office?
Then it hit me, the reason for my melancholy. 15 years ago on an identical February day I made the trip from Conway to Camden to see my mother who was coming home from a four-day stay in the hospital that day. She’d been receiving her first round of chemotherapy for the cancer that would take her life nearly five years later. I recall feeling nervous, anxious about how I’d find her. Would she be too weak to walk? Would she still have her beautiful silver hair?
I arrived at the same time her sisters drove up with Mama in the car. She seemed fine, just tired. As I recall, I took her bags in, and her sisters left. There we were, the original family, just Jayne and her parents. The difference was that this time they were both in need of care from me and not vice versa. It was weird, and I was jumpy.
I took lunch orders, thinking it’d be nice to have burgers and fries and ice cream, but Mama opted for saltines. Daddy agreed to a kid’s burger from Mickey Dee’s. Sitting at the kitchen table where we’d gathered literally hundreds of times, I felt awkward and on the verge of tears. My father managed to eat half of his burger, and my mother forced down a couple of saltines. Then she went to bed, and he went to the den to read. I tidied up and then went outside to clear my head and get a breath of fresh air. The house seemed stifling. It wasn’t. My frame of mind just made it seem that way.
Some visitors came by later, and I went for a walk with one of them. As we walked, both of us remarked on the gorgeous weather. As we sauntered up the block with my parents’ little Dachshund skipping along in front of us, it was almost (but not quite) possible to forget my parents’ state of health. Despite the sun dappled sidewalks, the upbeat conversation, and the antics of Eva, the dog, my heart was heavy.
I didn’t know what was ahead at that time, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I sensed that it was the beginning of the end, the end of their lives and the end of my life as someone’s child. The juxtapostion between my frame of mind and the gorgeous February afternoon was a stark contrast.
It’s no wonder Friday with its perfect weather conjured up the blues. The wonder is that I didn’t connect the dots earlier.