Grief is a walk we will all experience during our lives. I have experienced grief over happenings large and small. Grief is not a stranger and I seem to have spent my life learning its languages. I do not regard grief as a bad thing. To grieve a thing means that I have loved it, and love is never wasted in all of its manifestations.
So today when I woke up and got in touch with myself I realized that I was feeling the stirrings of grief. When I tapped into it, it had the familiar taste of the end of summer. Yet there are other nuances too. It is like the wonderful sound of a vibrant concert that is over, still vibrating in the heart. It is like the shopping for school clothing with Mom, or the anticipation of the good smells of apples in the apple cellar, or the faintly sweet smell of leaf matter breaking down into compost on the forest floor. Summer nights with Mom and Dad over strawberry shortcake renew themselves alongside the memory of going for ice cream with family on warm evenings when the lights of town light up the night sky. The songs of frogs, crickets, and cicadas echo good times that will be renewed in the familiarity of the seasons rolling around again, but is never quite the same because people and life situations are never quite the same. Children grow up, the old people pass on, friends move away, and I move on.
Memories, I have found, tend to associate themselves with like memories. So even as the season moves forward into the colder times of the year, I know there will be comfort in the renewal of the familiar, although things are not going to be quite the same this year, because of COVID-19. My day job as a school bus driver is not going to start in the same familiar way this year. But somehow people will start school and a new routine will form a pattern for the time we’re in. Somehow children will still find ways to celebrate Halloween. Somehow the old familiar smells of Thanksgiving Dinners and familiar sights of Christmas lights will brighten the upcoming winter months. Some of us have lost beloved ones to COVID, and to all of you who have been directly affected by this disease, I pray you comfort in the good memories that you have. Some of us have lost beloved ones to old age or friends moving apart. Knowing that we are different people now, we can still appreciate the gift of the time we enjoyed each other.
I will miss certain moments on the bus this year. Halloween is always a big occasion at my school. The elementary school children board my bus in such imaginative costumes. I have had vampires, fairies, princesses, clowns, and many more. One of my favorites was a little girl who had arrived in a dark fairy costume and I mistook her for a vampire because she had lost all of her middle teeth, leaving only the canines intact, so that when she smiled, her fangs were showing.
But more than anything else, a Thanksgiving trip down Memory Lane bridges gatherings with all the people I have loved across the years of my life. We may not be able to be together now, but they are all here. Mom, Dad, Patty, Grandpa Henry and Grandma Vera, Uncle August, Aunt Clara, and Cousin Lenora. Grandma Florence, Ann and Cousin Bob. The women will gather in the kitchen to share the work of cleanup. The men will gather to talk. The children will disappear slowly as they disperse to areas of play – the family room or outside if the weather is nice. My best friend Barb will drop in and we will leave to go horse back riding.
I will get in the car with my first husband Steve to return to Thanksgiving dinner on the farm. They will all be there, gathered around the large table in “City Grammy” Agnes’ tiny, but cozy house as she serves the Thanksgiving goose, and “Country Grammy” Mary’s home will be haunted with the wonderful smells of her baked goods. Martin and Albert, Bunny and Roy, Elsa and Nick, Edna and Bill, Don, Ann, Yolanda, any my son Byron – all are here. The people from my youth fill my heart sometimes more than the daily people of my recent years do, although since my second marriage my heart now sets places at the table for my husband Alan and Marty and Carole and their children.