Wednesday, August 24, 2005


A cold coming we had of it
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

When I called my mother, twenty years ago, to tell her that Martha was pregnant, there was a pause by the same name.

"Oh," said my mother. Another pause. Finally she said, "Even when you're expecting it, it comes kind of like a punch in the stomach, to find out you're going to be a grandmother."

I would have preferred congratulations. I intend to lie through my teeth, myself, and express delight and jubilation if I get that call one of these days. But I understood. Every milestone in your child's life is a tombstone in your own. Tori's leaving home for college. We're driving her stuff up there tomorrow. Whatever chapter my own life may be on, it can't any longer be the one that opened hopefully when a young man with long blond hair and wispy traces of a beard carried a backpack of clothes and a box of books into a dorm room in Olympia. That chapter's closed.

"It's funny, I want to ask -- never mind. It's ridiculous. You don't ask someone's parents a question like that. Never mind." Jonquil looked at me hopefully over the teacup.

"Go on, spit it out," I grumbled. But I knew what she was going to ask. Did she have a chance with Alan?

Parenthood entails a lot of turning the mind's sleeve inside out, but this was a little more than I could manage. I have read this boy to sleep, not so long ago, either, and watched the little thread of saliva reach from the corner of his mouth to the Pokemon sheets. An object of hopeless love? An object of this extraordinarily beautiful young woman's hopeless love?

Yet we're all somebody's child. The eye of God sees us all dribbling on our Pokemon sheets. Does it bemuse him, in the same way, to see us fall in love with each other? Seems like it must.

I honestly didn't know, don't know. Couldn't tell her.

I noticed, as I drove into work, that a few leaves of the trees on the parkway are beginning to turn red.

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