The Backside of Summer

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08.20.13  Despite the daytime heat and wildfires, we are truly now on the backside of summer.  There can be no denying it.  My children and grandchildren have come and gone, and are back at their homes, buying school supplies and new backpacks.  Fletcher is at football practice in 90 degree heat.

Summer never really slides off my back.  It ends abruptly, alarmingly sudden.  I am stunned at the early morning darkness, shocked when the sun sets and there is still evening left before bedtime.  I start talking about going to Seattle and the San Juan islands so I can feel Autumn’s cool salt air on my skin, before all here turns to ice.  I feel momento mori around me:  the crackling of dry Birch leaves blowing at water’s edge as the sun goes down; the eerie brilliant white light of the full moon as it rose over the eastern ridge, looking like an alien spacecraft coming to put an end to life as we’ve known it.

My youngest daughter forwarded an op-ed piece to me this morning about a father’s angst in taking his son to college, acknowledging the start of his son’s life and the long slow fading of his own.   I remember leaving Sarah at college 17 years ago.  After days of carrying boxes and bedding up three flights of stairs on that hot, steamy, muddy August week-end in New Orleans, we spent our last night together in a quintessential Garden District historic home, beautifully turned into an elegant, air-conditioned, small Inn.  Saffron colored early dawn light seeped through the dark wooden blinds as she slept so silently on her back in the bed we had shared, while I quietly packed up for the long solitary trip in my car to northwest Montana, to a new and foreign home of my own.  I don’t think anybody has ever cried so hard on Interstate 10 as I watched the hot sun fill the sky, thinking of my last child now gone from me.  Our lovely old home was sold, the girls’ mementos were stuffed in foot lockers and in storage, and I had thousands of miles alone ahead of me.  My future had been carefully planned, well thought out, and eagerly anticipated, but the ending of that summer, that chapter of my life, was sharp and jagged.  I think about it every year when summer suddenly stops being summer, and I feel like the rug is being pulled out from under me.  Then, Autumn floats in, a soft veil of reds and yellows, golden light, and crisp blue skies, and everything looks like a clean sheet of paper of fresh starts.

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