When Autumn Called
Friday’s Prompt: No Permanence is Ours. This is a short story about a lesson time taught me.
Old School Rhythm and Blues played on the highest volume as I belted out in unison with Brandy. Fingertips tapped the clothed steering wheel, and my head bopped to the base. I had just gotten some of the best news about my education, and I was rushing home to let my brother know what was going on. I could barely get my belongings together over the joyful anxiety that was quickening my pace. I unlocked the door, holding my books as tightly as possible. I came in, calling for my brother and my mom to tell them about the good news I had.
“We’re in here, sis.” He called out from the living room.
I reached them just around the corner, and the air in the house was heavy, and I knew some lamenting would be had. My mother was seated on the couch with her hands folded in her lap. Her smile was tight, and her eyes were glassy.
“I’m going to go ahead and let you sit down.” I sat down with my eyes on my mother, wondering what had her eyes focusing on the rug beneath her feet. I could hear my brother sigh and pace with trepidation. He knew I was especially sensitive and he often chose his words carefully. His fingers softly glided into the mass of curls on his head and exhaled one last time.
“Uncle Neal passed yesterday.”
My mother trembled, and the dam to her eyes collapsed. The tears dropped as time slowed and forced me to revisit the millions of memories stored in my mind. I was right back in Walkertown, North Carolina nervously trying to peddle my bike forward on our driveway filled with broken sediment, while attempting to balance myself. My Uncle’s hands were on the handlebars with mine and he was laughing and telling me that I had it. He then let go and stepped to the side telling me to keep peddling. A toothy grin spread across my seven-year-old face as I gained my balance and increased my speed. I could hear him cheering in the distance.
The timeline flew to a fourteen-year-old me trying to cope with being rejected by a crush for the first time. We had gone down to Riegelwood, North Carolina where my mother was from and he noticed I was not my usual giddy self, bustling with conversation. I was outside picking up forgotten pecans and putting them in an old box I found. That day, in 85-degree heat, he told me “Rejection was only a setup for success. Something greater than you can imagine is around the corner.” I never forgot that, and I would whisper it to myself every time things did not happen how I wanted them to.
At an instant, I was nineteen years old again, watching him pull into the parking lot with a new Mustang GT. I begged him to take me for a drive, but unbeknownst to me, I would be learning how to drive a stick that day. If he thought I needed to be taught something, as a single woman, he taught me. Because of him, I could change the oil in my car, change a tire, budget properly, and do minor construction work.
My eyes did not have the dam to hold back the tears. I looked at my recent calls and saw his name. We talked for hours that day, and he told me he would be back in town the following week. We were supposed to go out to eat, go shopping at Marshall’s afterward, and then we were going to go buy a couple of DVDs to watch at the house. Though my mother and brother sat lovingly beside me, grabbing a hold of my body losing balance, all I could do was focus on the millions of memories I had yet to experience with him. Now, I would not get the chance to take more pictures and sing along to music with him. Time decided that I learned enough from him, and that there was nothing else I could have needed. What about my wants, time? I got up and called my other uncle, his brother, and the only thing I could do was breathe on the phone with him.
I placed a hand on the cool glass of the window and watched the assortment of painted leaves forsake their branches and descend to the ground. Everything in nature must obey the bounds of time. The leaves don’t stay forever, the flowers don’t bloom out of season, warm days have their end, and like our lives, time controls them too. The young feel they have unlimited space for tomorrows, but that belief is draped in delusion. Anything time controls is not ours to keep. Although I planned for him to leave during Winter, Autumn called, and he answered.