On Our Way Home
by guest writer / husband Jeremy Rishe
41 years old. That’s 4 decades plus 1 year. 41 happened in February, and 1 month later the world shut down. In spite of all these compiled years I was still able to shovel the driveway, so we could reach the cabin. The body feels 20. That’s a lie. The body is... strong? No, but perhaps more, shall we say, enduring. Coordination has improved. But activities do require a bit more stretching. Heart & Mind keep getting younger. All require work, always have, always will.
Once inside we realize the record player, in this snow-bound cabin, is wearing down. The John Denver record, now playing, has a dying quality: “Poems, Prayers, and Promises...” John informs the wife and me. His odd droning baritone seems sad, and lacks the typical melancholy of Mr. Denver’s piercing tenor vocals. The record itself was encased in a Kurt Veil sleeve, which helps this all make more sense than it should.
3 minutes from now we will sit on the bed, and look out the window. I will comfort the wife as she cries; both of us imagining a child running down the forested hillside. A bird feeder is nailed to a tree, perfect for teaching them the wonders of nature. But out the window, all we see, now, is snow and hibernating conifers.
27 minutes from then I will explore that hill on foot, marching around the 3 acres in my snowshoes. It will feel lonely, part of me missing her... She would have been 5 by now, or 4 and a 1/2. She’d be learning. About the Catskills. About snowy hillsides. About pandemics. She might’ve grown up on a steady diet of TikTok videos. Unless it were to become as obsolete as Facebook, or MySpace, by the time she’s old enough to care. Would she care at 5...or 4 and a 1/2?
Presently, John Denver has been replaced by Scott Joplin. A decaying Maple leaf Rag ‘makes more sense' than a failing Rocky Mountain High. In 5 minutes the wife will cease crying. Then, acknowledging the water that is in the glass, we will remember: our time is our own. A child would eventually grow beyond the age of 5 (or 4 and a 1/2), and may find us repulsive (for a time), and possibly never regrow to fully love us again. Or if they did fully love us again, they would have their own life to live...but still need our money from time-to-time. In 6, or less, minutes we will remember that we can do anything we want today, tonight, and tomorrow. And that our love for each other is strong, perhaps even stronger because of the loss.
3 months from now my wife will help her mother sit hospice, and administer morphine to her grandmother (her mother’s mother). Her grandmother’s caregiver will tell her, “You see, this is why you need to have children, to be with you when you die.” As if the wife and I haven’t tried?! As if biology hasn’t reared its selfish head!? As if modern medicine hasn’t attempted all it could, yet robbed us blind!? She meant no harm, but, “Screw you! Who assumes that any child is going to choose such a task? There’s no written law, no law of nature, that requires one’s offspring to comfort their parents as they pass...So, please...screw you and wake up from your diatribe.” Of course I will simply think this...
Now, again. We decide that in a few hours we will heat up the veggie chili we brought from home. A warm shower will wash away the road trip. And the broken record player is getting...tiresome. Everything is fleeting. Even this birthday vacation that just started. 4 days from now we will pack up the car and return to The City. Later this summer I will write a second draft of the thing I am writing now. It will be only vaguely reminiscent of its first draft. Then 1 day...perhaps this fall…someone might...read it.