When we reach a certain age, we craft our saws, sledges, and axes and hack our way through the chains that bind us to the old ways. We vow never to be slaves to whatever drove our parents. We belong to no one but ourselves, and we stand at the beginning of life’s road ready to head down it. Maybe a little to the right or left… Maybe down the straggling, almost invisible path that meanders along beside the road, sometimes disappears into the undergrowth, then comes back out, crosses, disappears and rejoins… I don’t think we ever envision throwing a rope around Mom and Dad’s waists and following them, step by step, right down the middle of their road. But the rope appears as if by magic, binds us against our will to the womb which surrounded us even after birth—our parents’ lives. What they did. What they believed. What they loved. What they hated. What they strove for. What was so much a part of the fabric of their being that the strong fibers of the warp and weft extend to and around their children as well.
So, here I am, fifty years old. And I’m standing on the road…maybe a little off to one side, but still attached, by that indestructible line, to my parents’ lives. Dad has crossed over, and Mom is dwindling, but their legacy is now as solid as they ever were. It goes on before me in their stead, sometimes guiding when I would have lost my way, more often pulling against where I really need to go. There is no reason to be where I am. There are no progeny attached to me as I was to my parents. Their lives were largely defined by post-war suburbia, and five children, and all the stuff that entailed, and working to acquire and maintain that stuff. Then retiring…taking a little time to enjoy for themselves the stuff they worked so hard to get and keep.
For five decades I have stepped along in my parents’ footprints, but the surrounding landscape has looked less and less inviting. From time to time, I see roads running parallel to the one I’m on. Just far enough away that I can see that the things along those highways are the things I want and need. But the rope that binds me is too short. I KNOW it can be stretched…I’ve seen others do it. But the secret has so far eluded me. I gaze hungrily at those parallel roads as I trudge along behind my parents, the frayed ends of the fabric of our familyflapping in the wind behind me. How do I transform that selvage into wings?