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 One

Part One of a Three-Part Series
There’s no iced tea in the fridge. No beach towels on the clothesline, only weatherworn clothespins laden with dew. My mother’s favorite chair sits empty, a soup-stained throne awaiting its queen.

She’s not coming back.

I’m here for a month, at the island farmhouse of my childhood, with its fifty years of scrapbooks and hat collections, colored pencils and muffin tins. Room by room, I flit, pruning the weeds of a once brilliant mind. Armed with plastic totes, a fresh box of contractor trash bags, toilet cleaner and my pink Do it Herself toolbox, I’m cleansing the soul of this house.

I find multitudes of notes scrawled in her once-meticulous handwriting: “Church Sunday and Wednesday.” Her name. My cellphone number taped to every doorway. Baskets. Yankee magazines piled high. Broken pens. Thirteen spiral-bound notebooks, filled with sketches and daily observations.

I’m exhausted. just looking at it.