The Wanderer

“I’m looking into a trans-Siberian adventure next spring,” he announces. Having travelled the US on a Greyhound bus and across Canada on a train recently, my 86-year-old father’s ready to go global.

Russia? Alone? Dad is impulsive and lives to defy, leaving doctors and daughter scratching their heads.

No stranger to spontaneity, I’ve lived a life of rash decisions. Things changed in sobriety. I’m suddenly the responsible parent to a mother with Alzheimer’s and a rebellious teenage father.

To quell his wanderlust, I suggest a European river cruise. Three glossy brochures later, he was sold. But none of his friends was up for the trip.

Cruises aren’t my thing. Cramped in a tiny cabin? A boatload of seniors? Cringe-worthy.

Pushing aside preconceptions, I’ll accompany him on this trip of a lifetime. Because in the end, no one should be alone.

Silent Summer

She was Rachel Carson of the kitchen. Window ledge peppered with driftwood and mussel shells from the cove across the street. Turkey feathers from the backyard. Sprigs of goldenrod in rusty tea tins.

Her cooking was an extension of the great outdoors. The essays she wrote for her monthly food newsletter were embellished with pen-and-ink sketches of starfish and crabapples from our orchard, their dull thud a lullaby for deer at dawn and dusk.

Crockpot applesauce called for precisely eighteen of those very crabapples, as indicated on the cider-splattered recipe card. Her cobbler required blueberries she’d picked each summer. During her vegetarian phase, she made peanut loaf using freshly-grated carrots from the garden. “Better than meatloaf,” she said. It wasn’t.

Her love for the outdoors extended beyond the kitchen; like the spruce-choked woods and saltwater breezes surrounding us, the farmhouse begged that all its rooms be nature-clad. So she draped snakeskins over her collection of King Henry VIII dolls. Looped dried lobster antennae into a chain like the construction paper Christmas garland I made in school, hanging it from the beams of our barn-turned-living-room.

Cleansing the soul of this house fuses our creative spirits while she is still on this earth. And although my mother is not physically here, her aura cradles me with comfort and inspiration.

Soul Cleanse, Act Three

Part Three in a Three-Part Series

The soul-searching silent solitude, the rhythm of the tides from the cove across the street—I live what my mother lived when she was alone in this house, speaking to the spiders who inhabited the cobwebbed corners of her bedroom, before afternoons became terror-filled and cookbooks were no longer familiar friends.

Her artist’s studio stretches into a week-long project, too painful to sort through in one day. Friends who’ve been there tell me they’ve found valuables, money even, stashed in pages of ancient Time magazines. I find no diamonds but plenty of hidden gems in her vast portfolio of creativity: fashion ads, hand decorated menus, floral watercolor sketches, essays from her monthly newsletter, smudged with age.

The house, I decide, will be a tribute to her life, her free spirit released from the dusty piles of an ever increasing brain disease, dusted off to showcase her eclectic talent.

But how?