Long Journey to This Place

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A beautifully written essay of a journey through part of life.

Submitted: December 31, 2018

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Submitted: December 31, 2018

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Now, a far distance from childhood, I sit on the back deck of my country cottage. I watch bright yellow finches spilling sunlight from their feathers as they dine. Three feeders hang on extensions of a pole under a golf umbrella that keeps the seeds dry—Bill's idea. More numerous than the golden birds, the purple finches know there is power in numbers. They are force and fury, beauty and bluster, greed and grit. They continue to teach me lessons about survival and about death.

Where I am now in this place and in this time under the summer sun had its beginning many years ago. Some memories sink deep into our bones where they remain for a lifetime, and they produce a bitter-sweet haunting. Lost in remembrances, I no longer notice the birds. Instead, I see the image of my late husband. He is young and, oh, so handsome. As I sit beside him, he drives up a curving incline and past his parents' home whom I have visited only one time. When he reaches the top of the hill, he parks his tan Ford. I roll down the window and look out at a moon-frosted cemetery and listen to the sounds of a warm spring evening. I hear the chirp of a cricket and in the distance the tinkling laughter of children. I smell the aroma of roses. It is a magical evening, but I'm too young to understand enchantment when it's all around me.

Bill has his arm stretched out on the back of the car seat. He smiles at me and says, "Look in the glove compartment." I follow his request, and inside I see a ring box that I retrieve. He reaches for the box and opens it. Inside is an engagement ring. He takes my left hand and places the ring on my finger. He kisses me a tender kiss, then starts the engine, and we head back down the hill. Once again he drives past his parents' home. I knew then he had taken me there to meet his family before giving me the ring. I looked down at my hand and realized I was engaged.

Bill was a deep, quiet man, and I don't recall his ever actually proposing marriage or my ever saying I would marry him, but somehow we both knew we would spend our lives together. On July 18, a lifetime ago, we married in the living room of my Grandmother Wood's house on Charleston's West Side. My grandmother had died and my Aunt Phyllis inherited the two-story structure. I realized much later how she must have worked to prepare for our wedding.

After the small ceremony, we left to drive to our first home, a tiny three-room apartment. We had only one car, but Bill worked at a local chemical plant, and I worked at a plant next-door, which meant we could ride together to and from work. We didn't live in that apartment even a year when we found a little green house  for sale. We discovered we could purchase it without a down payment, and for just $7,500, we bought our first home. Our son and daughter were born when we lived in that house.  Soon, though, the time came to move again. We bought a larger house nearby, but we were there a short time, too.

Bill was transferred to Louisiana, where we remained for almost four years. In Louisiana, our daughter entered kindergarten, and our son entered the first grade. We came back to the green hills of West Virginia, where we would move two more times within the general area before moving to these windswept 33 acres in the country. Bill retired early, and I enrolled in my first college class when I was 42 years old. In my senior year, the chair of the English Department called me into her office and said there would be a place on the faculty for me if I would continue my education. I did and a couple of years later, I was teaching college students. Bill had encouraged me to enroll because he knew that had been one of my lifelong dreams. When I retired, we moved to this rural acreage my maternal uncle, Hobert Frame, had owned.

Now, I reside in the final chapter of my life, but I remember the early spring night that placed me on the long road to where I am sitting on a wrap-around deck my husband built. It is attached to a house he gutted and remodeled. He is in every nail, every board, every room.

On August 25, 2015, acute leukemia ended his life and our marriage. Only death could have parted us—only death. Now, I deal with grief and memories of images and sounds and movements that are sweet-sad because they are memories of events and laughter and love and youth that will not come my way again. I remind myself daily that grief is self-pity. I try to be strong, especially for our son and daughter who live with their families on this acreage, and I remind myself they are suffering, too.

The birds chirp and grab my attention away from the past and jerk me into the present. I watch them and smile. They're still filled with grit and greed, beauty and bluster. They remind me that ugliness rides alongside beauty. I must look for the beauty.

 

 


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