Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sending Off

They arrived at the door when I was still packing. As usual, I first heard them argue, then I turned around to see their clumsy figures moving into view.  Mom bumped into things like the gate left ajar or the tiny step leading to my front porch.  Dad watched her in hopeless distress, as if the twists in his eyebrows alone could reverse time and remove the harms done to his wife.

They rang the door bell, as if the rhapsody of pots and pans knocking onto the patio floor wasn't enough to get everyone's attention.  I opened the door to help them inside.  They carried a full meal with them, that is just how they traveled, especially to visit me. Over the years, I'd learned to be grateful when that was all they brought.

The smell of dumplings, vegetables cooked in ginger and garlic, and salted beef filled my tiny apartment and made my stomach growl.  I rushed to finish packing,  stuffing the last items along the sides.  I was sure I packed everything, but sometimes that still didn't seem enough, somehow.

We ate quickly.  Mom asked me whether I had this and that, panics growing in her voice with each item she was sure I had forgotten.  I reviewed their locations in the suitcase with her, throwing everything out of orders.  Dad paused and checked my travel documents and made copies to keep with them.  He walked briskly between the printer and my bags, stuffing everything neatly wherever they belonged.  I watched him without knowing how to help, my heart quivers at the sight of his legs bent from age while walking the stairs. His salt and pepper hair drew streams into the space before my eyes, back bending up and down like an arched bow.  I got up to wash the dishes, letting the gushes of water slip through my fingers as I scrub and rinse.

We walked outside to find another sunny California day.  I ducked into the sun warmed back seat and closed my eyes.  Dad was at the wheel but mom was driving.

"Slow down, you are gonna kill that person."
...
"Oh my god, why did you just do that?"
...
"Stop!"

We got the driving coach side of her, commanding and snappy. She threw up her hands and took over the steeling wheel once, then the emergency break.  The short ride to the airport jerked along, and I feel breathless and dizzy. 

The commuter terminal was the size of a petri dish.  After checking in at the counter, I hugged them goodbye at the start of the security line.  It was an awkward western gesture for them, but they tried pleasantly to accommodate me. I could feel the frail frames of their shoulders shrank to childlike proportions under my arms. The years had slipped by all of us unnoticed,  cruelly taking away their statures while mine grew.  Was it not yesterday, when their arms held me and the world still on the first day of kindergarten; when I waved them away through hair and tears both fighting to get into my eyes.

That bit hadn't changed perhaps.

As I stripped for the security scans, I looked back to see them standing just at the other side looking on. Somehow we've found ourselves in the land of the giants, and they shifted, constantly to keep me in view, two dark gray heads bobbing in a sea of tallness.  Each time I made another turn in the winding snake lines I turned to check and I'd see, there they were, hands waving at the sight of me turning.
Photo courtesy of the Internet - you know, Google etc.


For a while I saw a too small child held in their arms again.  Me, and this too big world.

17 comments:

  1. Lovely post; with a little meloncholy which I always approve of. Glad to see you posting on your blog.

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  2. I agree with Dicky - lovely to see your name pop up.

    I just loved reading this.

    Hope all well with you.

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  3. Great to see you!

    A lovely, thought provoking post.

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  4. I've missed you and your writing but this post was worth waiting for, it's beautiful.
    My favourite line: “His salt and peppered hair drawing streams into the space before my eyes, back bending up and down like an arched bow.“ Brilliant.

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  5. I enjoyed how the middle of this gets a little more detached and drowsy, sharing more of the experiential side of the potential accident.

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  6. "The years had slipped by all of us unnoticed, cruelly taking away their statures while mine felt over-sized with all the growth."

    I remember the first time I thought something similar about my Mom. It is rather a shock to realize our parents are not young anymore. And I wonder if my sons think the same thing about their Dad and I yet.

    Excellent post. I pictured Mom and Dad arriving with the food. And I pictured them waving goodbye as you went through the line. They have reached an age where they don't take goodbyes for granted.

    Beautiful writing, just beautiful.

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  7. Your writing transports me, it really does. You tell stories beautifully and this is one is so sweet and, well, bittersweet. My parents are still relatively young, but this did make me think about my maternal grandparents and how watching them is sort of hard, as I realize how old they're getting.

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  8. So wonderful to see your name pop up on my dashboard.
    What a beautiful post... you have such a way with words... I am a visual person and your words helped me experience them as if this happened to me.
    I connected with it as I have been waved goodbye by my parents so many times...the experience is exciting but sad at the same time... mixed feelings which you have described so wonderfully and accurately.

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  9. Oh, I just love reading your writing, but you already knew that. You're so lucky to still have your parents. The way you describe them shrinking reminds me of my mom in those last few weeks.

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  10. A lovely post. You draw images together so well that it's wrenching when you get to the end of a post.

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  11. So true! Parents do behave this way- it must be universal and some day I will do it too : )
    I remember the moment when I realized my dad was old. You have captured it precisely.

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  12. So many words to describe this post - beautiful in it's eloquence, haunting in the discovery of what time steals. Growth, in the remembrance of simple gestures with huge expressions of love. (Hugs)Indigo

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  13. Shopgirl- it's so wonderful to have your writing grace the inter webs once again. This piece was particularly touching. How we all can relate to how the tides change, slowly, yet all at once when we notice our parents slowing and wilting, yet their parental authority remains. This is a beautiful portrait of your moments with them. :)

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  14. I missed this post when you wrote it, and coming to read it a few weeks later is a strange thing - almost like I've arrived to see you after you've already left.
    I hope your travels are taking you somewhere wonderful - and I look forward to reading all about them. Come back soon.

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  15. Very moving. This is the first of your posts I've read, but I'll be back to read more.
    David

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  16. Tina, this is all you and yet it's all of the rest of us as well. Such universal emotions, regardless of time or culture. Thank you!

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