Driving these highways in September, as I notice the little flecks of red and orange peppering the green trees that line the stony road,
I think about last September and October and into November
when I watched the changes that happened week to week
as I rode in my parents’ car, like a little girl in the backseat
on my way to the doctor’s in Boston leading up to my surgery,
and the weekly follow ups that lasted so long,
because of my body’s stubborn refusal to heal that final inch of sliced open skin, as if it resented me for pulling out the poison,
like an ungrateful child.
Every week, in the quiet of their car, and the quiet of their occasional conversation, I would look out the window and think,
“will this fall, these colors, these changes that I have always cherished,
will they. now haunt me each year,
and remind me of being sick and being scared and being stubborn and being lonely in the days between being healthy and being better?”
And because I thought those thoughts,
I was sourly sure I believed that they would be true,
in the way the modern gurus would have you believe
that if you speak it to the universe the universe will give you what you ask for.
But it turns out I was wrong.
I find, these early days of September,
that when I look out my car window, and am a little surprised, a little delighted
to see the colors pushing their way into the greens,
I find myself only thinking of the quiet of my parents’ conversation,
the quiet of their thoughts
and their devotion that pushed its way into my difficult time.
It is no small thing that my dad, with the bone gripping pain of arthritis
and my mom, with the slightly weary strength of a woman whose whole life was given to hundreds, maybe thousands of people in their times of need —
that they got on that highway with me week after week,
while I cycled through. fear and fury and boredom and irritability
and they carried me into the traffic and city things they had set their lives up avoiding at all costs.
They just brought me, with no complaints, no fanfare.
One evening, toward the end of my weekly visits, we stopped for dinner.
We always stopped for dinner.
I think he saw the end of these trips approaching, so my dad may have felt he could finally say something that he’d been thinking.
He said “you know, it’s a good thing you had come back here before you got sick, because going to New Orleans to help you through it would have been a hardship. I mean, we would have figured it out, somehow, but it would have been a hardship. This was a lot easier”
And then I knew, in a deeper way than I ever had, in a way that I imagine people who have had children know as soon as their children are born,
that this man and this woman,
both dealing with the creaks and bumps of the bodies they are still trying to recognize as their own,
I suddenly understood that these two people
will do whatever they can to help me,
as long as there is breath in their bodies,
And that is what I think of when I see the leaves changing color in the trees along the highway.