I thought I’d left yesterday behind. The indigo-blue-dawn slips slight of hand into an amber autumn morning. Last night’s rain leaves a peppery tar suspended in the air from the pines and its sachet fills the house. A crisp breeze wafts in unannounced through an open window like a ghost where I write and chills my elbow. Another day lifts up another sun. It sits low in the south lately and casts long shadows across the tall green grass. A soft sough from the wind whispers through trees and bends branches – makes saffron leaves tumble to rest near a bank of rose bramble. The teapot is whistling mad and simmers on the stove. Earl Grey, and my work day begins.
Grasping at a memory from the day before, my mind tumbles back in time. I’m dancing the jitterbug – that swingy, three-quarter jig. I make out a fuzzy snapshot of me standing on my father’s feet. He holds my delicate eight-year-old hands for balance. We’re faced in the same direction and pitch fro, heel back, and rock side-to-side with an imaginary partner. What is that song again? You Send Me? Yes, that’s it, by The Platters. Slow enough to learn the jitterbug.
Ascension into teenage years renders rash-ridden breakouts, screaming matches with mother, The Beatles, questioning authority.
“Promise me you’ll never have sex.” Through mother’s tears she makes me swear. “Promise!”
“Okay. I promise.” And, at sixteen, I let go of the promise.
Through coming years of doubt and contemplation, confusion and separation, I survive the loss of virginity, my sister’s unwed pregnancy, and my parent’s divorce. I marry a man who, twenty-three years later, leaves me. Yet, the same story repeats unoriginally with millions of people, exponentially, over and over as if on the tide.
My father died. Did I mention that? Eleven years ago. He was my hero when I was a kid, a great joke-teller. He loved my mother to the end. But, they let each other go.
Our best year, our last year, we spend close together. We finally re-connect but a little too late and for too short of time.
His body weak and failing him, he doesn’t want to die. He hangs on until he can stand the loss of breath no longer, and then he lets go.
“I’ll see you again. We’ll always be together.”
“How do you know?” I see in his eyes, he’s afraid.
“How?” I repeat, and try to explain better. He deserves that. “Because, we’re family. We’re tied to one another by a string called ‘family’ and we’ll always be together.”
I’m reeling in the moment of this snapshot in my head – my lips press hard to his forehead, my hand in his, I’m laying part on part off the hospital bed – and I whisper, “I won’t let go.”