Susan's Blog

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Finding Peace

I escaped to Cape Cod for an overnight with my parents, to get a little peace and some distance from what’s been happening with Nat. My car tires crackled into the old familiar pebble driveway and I felt a huge weight drop inside. I remember thinking, “Thank God it’s all the same as ever. They’re all the same as ever.” Like Scarlett saying, “It’s there. Tara’s still there,” after the burning of Atlanta.

I took my bike off the back, and jerked up the handle on my suitcase and walked into their little cape house. It was quiet, the air was warm and huglike and smelled faintly of old dry wood or something. Mom was in the shower, Dad was on the Nordic Trak. I set down my suitcase and relief gave way to my sadness, now that I could let myself feel it. It welled up inside of me like vomit, unstoppable, came out in ugly heaving sobs.

I felt better after I was done – just a few seconds, really – and went down to the basement to see Dad. George Harrison’s “Wah Wah” from The Concert for Bangladesh was blasting. Dad was shoving hard at the handles of the contraption. He looked different. He wasn’t wearing his usual silvery light rimless glasses; he had on big brown frames which made him look like Younger Dad, the dad of my adolescence, when such glasses were in style. Dad, ever loyal to all things and people, never got rid of them. He noticed me and smiled, his whole lower jaw pulled into a sharp square. Dear Daddy.

“Hey! Oh, you look so beautiful,” he exclaimed, untangling his ropey legs from the Nordic Trak like a crab crawling out from seaweed. Sweaty kiss, and then back on. Exercise is everything in their lives, and now in mine, too. It feels like every time I’m with them, at some point we are going to discuss how great riding bikes is, as if this were a brand new discovery. “And the smells,” I’ll say. “Mm,” they’ll say. Mom might quote a Times article about endorphin rush studies or long-lived athletes versus people who “just walk like 20 minutes every other day.” We are Exercise Supremecists. It is our religion, our obsession. This is how we bond, over exercise, food, and intense conversation.

With food, we’re usually talking about what we’re going to eat, what we wish we were eating, what we are definitely going to avoid. Setbacks in diets, success and new outlooks on food. As if we are ever going to suddenly become those people who can take pizza or leave it. The Senator family lives to eat, not the other way around. Hence the obsessive exercise. It’s the talk that I mostly go there for. While Mom is going back and forth with berries, peanut butter, yogurt, I summarize the very latest about my family. Right now the deep concern is Nat, and why he gets so still and slow-moving. I tell them of my heartache, the lack of insight, the poor state of adult autistic healthcare. And just Natty, is he suffering? Is he confused and frustrated about what’s happening to him?

We talk and talk and talk. An hour runs by, even though this is prime bike and beach time. There’s really no way any of us are going to stand up yet from the table, though the food is now just smears and crumbs on blue glass plates. But I’m like a bee stuck in honey, it’s just sweet, sweet, sweet.

I do understand how lucky I am to have people like them in my life, still vital, so wise, but also so funny and poignant in just how flawed and human they are. They’re slim muscled and bone, sinew, and such delicate skin. They are in their late 70’s, and there’s something so tender about that, about them, that makes me need to be near them. In every way yet in no way at all in particular, they make me feel better about Nat. My void inside is full again, and I know what I need to do when I get back. I have strategies and steps now, that have collected out of the familiar conversations and the eating. Pretty soon we’ll ride. Probably through the woods up to the dunes and look down at the ocean. Always the same, but never boring.

I don’t know why it all helps, exactly. I mean, obviously the love is all there, an actual presence, like the heavy aroma you drink in on your bike, when you pass that high wall of privet hedge, on the way to the beach.2015-06-22 14.30.28-12015-06-22 19.46.552015-06-22 19.47.41

1 comment

How I love reading about your familial relations. I have nearly none left, no parents nor grandparents, only a sister and two aunts.

Relish these times. Embrace them. Remember every moment.

— added by Don on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 3:46 pm

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