By Barb Arland-Fye
Young trees with crimson leaves stand like sentries at the entrance to the cul-de-sac where my parents’ townhouse is located in Bloomington, Minn. Autumn is not my favorite season, but I discovered a deeper appreciation for fall during a visit last weekend to see Mom and Dad.
Twin urges pulled at me prior to committing to the six-hour drive to the Twin Cities: work responsibilities and bonding time with my parents, now 80 and 83. So many autumns have swirled into a dream, making me keenly aware that life on this earth is fleeting. “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. …” the writer of Ecclesiastes reflects (3:1).
While I prefer to be the rider and not the driver on visits home, I traveled solo this time. The rest of my family had other plans. Taking off in the family CRV, I said a prayer for safe travels and turned on National Public Radio to keep me company. Except for a couple of minor diversions — forks in the road are my undoing — everything was going smoothly until about 60 miles south of the Twin Cities. My peripheral vision caught the image of a tawny-colored hawk flapping its wings. “That bird’s going to hit me!” I thought to myself, realizing the collision was unavoidable. The hawk struck the hood and bounced off. The body became airborne again, hurtling toward the other side of the interstate. The encounter stunned me, but I continued on my way, wondering why a hawk flying so powerfully had lost his life that way.
Maybe I was still rattled when I reached another fork in the road, tantalizingly close to my parents’ home. I had promised to be at the house around 6 p.m. for dinner with my parents and one of my brothers and his family. But that last fork sabotaged my plans. Admittedly, I wasn’t relying on GPS. My dad, Ray, and my brother, Tim, guided me back on track via cellphone.
Even though I arrived late, the mini family reunion revived my spirits. It’s such a joy to see family members I don’t have the opportunity to visit regularly. My brother Tim and his wife Carleen and their children, Ryan and Rachel, joined Mom and Dad and me for a feast that Mary, my mom, prepared. I snapped a photo on my iPhone of all of us after dinner. Rachel helped us time a “selfie” so all of us could appear in the photo, which we posted to Facebook!
The next day my parents and I spent quality time together doing some of their favorite things: walking in the Mall of America, stopping at a coffee shop, praying the rosary, attending Mass, enjoying dinner at an Italian restaurant and playing a Scrabble-like card game called “Quiddler.” Mom is an incredible wordsmith and won our nine-round game hands down.
Having that time with them allowed me to savor the blessing of my parents’ company, which I have treasured for 58 years now. My dad jokes about raising the bar on his life expectancy. He’s shooting for 90. When I asked whether he thought he’d make the “100 club,” he said, “I don’t think I’d remember it.”
I left my parents’ house on Sunday to head back to mine in LeClaire, and smiled at the red-leaved sentries as I pulled out of the cul-de-sac.
(Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at arland-fye@davenportdiocese. org.)