Friday, August 21, 2015

Back in the day...

      I once wrote a daily local column for 
the Sun-Sentinel a lifetime ago.
     Some days I wrote close to the bone.
He was concerned for his widowed mother. It was in the fall and the first anniversary of his father's death.
       Middle-aged, he lived in Fort Lauderdale where he wrote a column for a local newspaper.
        Eighty years old, his mother lived alone in a tiny house surrounded by towering oaks and maples outside Philadelphia in the rolling farmland of Bucks County.
       Filled with the fine fine paintings and time-worn antiques his parents had collected during their 60-some years together, the tiny house had become a remnant-filled museum of their love.
      His father's heard had failed after 78 years.
      "We might have been able to operate and save his life if he'd been a younger man -- and if his lungs had not been so weak from emphysema," a doctor explained after it was over.
       Toward the end, unable to move about from the shortness of his breath, his father had kept to his favorite blue recliner chair that had faced the southwest corner of the livingroom.
       The best time was at the end of the dy, when his father sat watching the setting sun ignite the crimson autumn fire of the Japanese maple he had planted yearrs before..
       "Oh Beth," his father had exclaimed of the brilliant tree the day before his heart failed him. "Isn't it such a work of art in all its glory! Aren't we so lucky to have such beauty?"
         And now a year had gone by and the tree was aflame once again.
         Anxious and thinking of her living alone with all her thoughts and feelings, he called his mother from Florida on the the anniversary of that day.
          He listened to the the telephone ringing, imagining his mother busling through her furnished memories -- past the polished walnut table that had been her Quaker grandmoter's, around the worn blue recliner now vacant for a year, scurrying into the kitchen to the telephone hanging above the English bone china that been the wedding gift of a long-dead great-aunt.
     "Hello?" he heard the familiar voice exclaim from 1,300 miles to the north.
      "It's John," he said. "Just wanted to know how you were getting along."
      They talked across the miles. He felt relieved when she raised the subject.
      "It's hard to believe a year's gone by since your father left us," she said.
       That's good, he thought to himself, aware of how voice was strong and free of pain as she spoke of it.
       "You OK? he  asked.

       "I'm fine,," she said. "I was worried about how I would be. But I'm alright, now that it's here."
       "I glad, Mom," he said.
        "He was a wonderful man, your father," his mother said.
        "I wanted to do something special for him onn this first anniversary," she continued.
        "What's that?"
         "I found a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese," his mother said. "And I've memorized one of her love poems for your father."
        He listened as she spoke the old familiar words of  love over the distant miles
        "How do I love there? Let me count the ways.
         "I love thee in the depth and breadth  and height my sould can reach..."
          Her voice never broke as she spoke the words.
         Good for you, he thought, his eyes glistening. Good for you and Dad.
         "How's Dad's favorite maple tree this fall?" he asked.
           "Brilliant," she replied. "I can't remember when its leaves looked more more lovely in the sunset."
        Sometimes a person will ask what happened to my column in the Sun-Sentinel.
        And sometimes I'll tell them truth and how I'd been replaced by a sports writer.
        But all that was a long time ago.  


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