Archive for Thursday, July 17, 2008

It’s true: You’ll get through this

July 17, 2008

"By the yard, life is hard; inch by inch, it's a cinch." The mother of a college friend of mine had a yellow fabric yardstick that hung suspended on the front of her refrigerator; on it were those words. I walked past them each time I went to visit.

Like many farm houses, the way into the house was via a porch that opened up into the kitchen, where you kicked off muddy boats, tossed a jacket over the back of a wooden, slated chair and scrubbed your hands in a sink located under the eaves, just next to the pantry.

I can see that house plainly in my mind. I can smell the onions in the cellar and can hear the drip of the water in the sink, even after all these years.

The house was at the end of a gravel driveway that wound around to the back door. The house itself was shrouded in tall trees - trees of Heaven they were called. The outbuildings were wooden structures where the tractors and combines were housed. There was a Quonset hut built by one of the sons when he came home from one of the wars - Korean probably. And there was a small house to the south of the main house where the tenant farmer lived.

Under one of the tall maple trees was a picnic table with the wood worn from years of exposure and the paint chipping; it was sturdy, nonetheless. My friend slept on that table, under the stars the summer her husband, a pilot in another war, was shot down. I knew her for a long time before I knew of those long, lonely nights of sorrow under that umbrella of comforting stars.

It was the summer I met her mother when those words, hanging on that icebox came to dwell in my memory; to revisit me from time to time like they have over these past months. She would say to me, "You'll get through this. We always do."

She would be right. We do get through things in spite of ourselves. That summer I visited her mother while my friend oversaw the cutting and baling of hay on the ranch.

Her mother had Parkinson's disease. The smile with which she greeted me shone in her eyes despite her face being made immobile from the disease.

She had the black hair and porcelain skin of the Irish and, in spite of her illness, a rose bloom high on her cheeks. She had a softness about her that came from her frailty as well as her gentility. These visits, during which time I read to her, were as nourishing to me as they were sustaining for her.

At each visit's end, she slowly reached and patted my hand, lingering for a moment that seemed to say, "One star filled, summer night at a time; by and by sorrow will pass."

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