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.

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?

Soul Cleanse, Act Two

Part Two in a Three-Part Series

I am purging my mother’s house, what the Swedes call a “death cleaning.” Although she’s still alive,  a jump start on organizing this cluttered house seemed easier now than after her passing, But there is no perfect time.

This house will always be haunted with the memories of an exceptional life: a young woman, fresh from art school, honing her artistic talent through the years and unlike what I now witness on a daily basis–the disintegration of a human being who, in my life, has always been so confident and strong. Her loss of identity has become part of my heart.

I can’t toss these memories in a trash bag, along with the rubber band collection and dusty cans of Glade and newspaper clippings. What will I do with all the things I can’t bring myself to throw away?