Cheers from Minnesota, where winter ended about twenty minutes ago. Snow stands in pastry puffs here and there. Birds flutter onto naked tree limbs while squirrels forage for food on the ground. One senses hunger, and the buds inside the bushes and branches are thinking of awakening today. Yesterday reached 45 degrees.
I'm here for the weekend to visit with my parents in their assisted living homes as well as give two readings for my novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century. I will read tonight at the Bookcase in Wayzata, tomorrow at a huge art studio set up for salons. A review The Brightest Moon of the Century appeared on March 15th in Sunday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune. My mother saved it for me, and I saw it was the lead review and included a gorgeous set of photos of the moon in different phases and a huge headline. I appreciate the focus, so I'm hopeful there may be more than a handful at the reading in Wayzata tonight.
I received an e-mail that a good review of my play, Who Lives, appeared in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, and the drama is Pick of the Week elsewhere. A good-sized audience attended the theatre last night. My work--my novel that took ten years and my play that evolved over twelve--is having a spring of its own.
All this good news contrasts in seeing my mother yesterday, walking delicately, concentrating on her breathing, as she approaches eighty years old. Old age is a stage that few people picture in advance or prepare for. My mother for years planned her retirement finances and even her own funeral, but she didn't picture herself living anywhere but her own home. Now she's in assisted living with people even older than herself. Her friend Rachel, there, died a few weeks ago at age 100. It seemed to make my mother realize there's only one way out of there.
I also saw my stepfather, who lives in an assisted-living condo complex. His complex reminded me of a college dorm, but instead of music blasting from the rooms, a smell of weed in the air, and young men trying to impress young women in open doorways, hunched gray-haired figures pushed their wheeled walkers toward a table area where I saw others playing cards. The one commonality was that a line began forming for the cafeteria, as people waited for the doors to open exactly at 5:30 p.m.
When I knocked on my stepfather's door, he shouted from the other side, "Please wait. I can't walk as fast as I once did." I told him that was okay. It took about three minutes before the door opened. His hands are gnarled thanks to arthritis. He smiled when he saw me and said, "Don't get old. It's not fun."
I can't say where I'll be in another twenty-five years, but seeing this pushes me in my writing. And it also pushes me toward my gym, where I use the machines and sometimes swim.
Even these thoughts, though, become a contrast as I look out the window here in Minnesota and witness the wildlife and watch the day warm. There's renewal.
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