I cross the broad Connecticut River for maybe the hundreth time in my life as our car sped away from Springfield, Mass and makes its way to Bradley Field, the closeby airport that offers a quick escape from the old ties that bind. This has been a trip colored by sadness. I am losing my dearest first cousin to cancer and I traveled East to say what most likely will be my last good bye.
My cousin, who I imagined as the Other Original Rebel in the family was rail thin, but her smile still could light up the landscape. Although she was mildly confused, there was no question that she and I still had a strong bond. The mid summer New England heat and humidity felt oppressive, but somehow appropriate.
Can home be two things at once? Home/Not Home. Neil Diamond’s Lyrics of I Am I Said come to mind: LA’s fine but it ain’t home, NY’s home but it ain’t mine no more. The New England landscape holds memories, but there is a piece of the puzzle that no longer fits. It’s difficult to put into words. On one hand, the far away hills on the horizon looked like large anthills, not worth noting by California standards. They hardly impressed me. They seem diminished somehow. On the other hand, the ubiquitous, overflowing white hydrangea blooms flowering so abundantly now spoke to the area’s beauty and history, as well as my love of flowers! I thought of my own family history in the area that I’d learned many years ago. I was told that my fraternal grandmother planted long hedges of white hydrangeas in the front yard of the family home. I admired them on many occasions, and actually picked masses of them one summer afternoon. It gave me a connection to my grandmother who died before I was born . Ah, so she loved flowers too!
The Time spent with my cousin passed quickly. We headed North of Springfield to Northampton one day and another day to Shelburne Falls and the camera perfect Bridge of Flowers.
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge provided a great destination for a day’s outing as well. I don’t think I appreciated the prodigious amount of work he did documenting American life, until the museum visit.
So the days passed pleasantly despite the awareness that parting was waiting in the wings. Goodbyes are hard and I don’t like to prolong them. On the other hand, they are best faced head on. We’d all have a cocktail for dinner which briefly helped. We ultimately bowed to the reality of life’s impermanence when the time came for us to end our visit and head to Bradley Field. My cousin told me I gave her strength. It makes me feel better to think so. She inspired me with her strength and grace. Letting go is not for sissies. I am glad I made the trip.