Making peace with myself, and consequently, the world around me, is without a doubt the best thing that\’s ever happened to me.
Every Thursday I visit my grandparents. In my adolescence, coming here was an annoyance to me. For one, it meant getting out of bed before ten on the weekends. Once here I had nothing to do but read, which would have been fine except there was nary a comfortable place to do so. As a teen I valued my privacy and alone time greatly, and the weekends at my parents while everyone else was out was my only occasion for that.
It wasn\’t always so. I spent most of my childhood here — weekends, summers, holidays, special \”hooky\” days which were sanctioned by my mother as I was always so stressed at school. For a long time I forgot how being here at my grandparents was so peaceful. Indeed, alone in the backyard it is like a sanctuary.
The sky is the shade of blue that I remember from my childhood — not the dark, smog-filled skies that dominate my memories of the outdoors in my teen years, Only ten days of summer remain, and the five o\’clock September sun is setting behind me, warm on my back, giving the yard a cozy glow that invokes memories of so many happy afternoons back here. A long shadow stretches across the yard — something that was not there ten years ago. Between then and now, my grandfather planted a pine tree for Earth Day, and much to everyone\’s surprise the little 3\” seedling has grown taller than the two story house.
I lose myself in thought, staring at that tree. Its trunk is now the size of the small pine trees my grandfather used to take me to climb behind Oakland Terrace fifteen years ago. I look at this tree now and I wonder if any young hands will ever grow sticky from its sap. The thought that the tree may never be the hiding place for some rambunctious young sprites is almost more than I can bear.
Sitting here on the back porch, I glance around me, and in the immediate eight house area this tiny pocket of life has barely changed in the twenty odd years that I have been cognizant of it. The two original farmhouses remain. The old walnut tree, almost a hundred years old, still sits on the far side of the fence from me. It still drops its walnuts down onto my grandparents lawn. I puttered around in my stockinged feet picking up walnuts from the ground, marveling at how the sensation of them in my hands instantly reduced me to nostalgia. For some reason is shocked me to feel how warm they were from sitting in the sun all day. I was amazed to find that I could now fit four in one hand instead of barely being able to grasp two. I sit here and instinctively remember what the sudden snapping sound, followed by the rustling of leaves and a thud on the ground means. Every time I hear that snap I jerk my head up to watch the walnut fall. I immediately run to pick it up, turning it over in my hands to inspect every distinguishing mark. I bring it to my nose and marvel… it smells just like my memory assures me it did fifteen years ago.
Nature takes a long time to change. Peoplekind, unfortunately, do not. Therefore, I worry about this house and its pine tree. I worry about the 1/8th of an acre covered in lush green peacefulness. The yard lined on all sides with various vines, bushes, flowers, and vegetables. The herb garden on the porch that was the center of so many childhood games. The long green lawn which we used to play sports on, now impossible as its rectangle has been broken with a new tree. Earlier today I was astonished to find that a large, circular indentation still remains in the corner of the yard — the imprint of long, fun filled summers spent in the plastic kiddie pool. One summer we managed to convince my grandmother to get a bathing suit and get in with us. That was back when my grandmother could leave the house. She can\’t now as she\’s housebound, tied to an oxygen machine until the day she dies.
Nearly two years ago the doctors said that day would be in the next six months — sooner, and not later. Six months came and went, and then a year. She\’s still here, much to everyone\’s surprise. She\’s seventy-nine now. My grandfather will be eighty-nine next month. Some people live to be thriving octogenarians and while I desperately wish my grandparents would live that long, anyone can see that there is no joy left in living for them. More or less, they sit and wait for death, and nothing any of us does convinces them to grasp what they have and cherish it. Life is so precious, in all forms, even through old age and illness.
Oddly enough, I relate to them — their bodies in constant pain, unable to move in the manner which they were accustomed to. I have been in the same position these past ten years, and as a result, I know what it is like to look forward to death, to see no point in living. But there is point, and I know that now. Looking at this backyard, which three generations of our family\’s children have now played in and which has remained nearly unchanged — beautiful, vibrant, and full of life for all four generations. I know what the point is — the point is to appreciate, enjoy, remember, and above all, preserve while continuing to produce life itself. Barring that, happiness is just a pine tree climb away.