A friend of mine told me that when her mom was battling cancer she placed an Albert Camus poem on her bedroom door: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
Ahh, summer, your golden sheen has a timetable. Inside of us, we are strong and solid, standing up on a paddle board and learning how to navigate stroke by stroke. Even if we paddle in circles, we get to where we are going.
Where are we going? Back home to ourselves, again and again, to what is true and right. Our inner compass, our invincible summer sun. The families we are born to and the families we make out of kindred spirits. The same beaches. Or different beaches that we sit upon while telling others about that one beach, that lake you ran around while working at a summer camp one summer. The lake that dried up but still lives in your heart.
But still and yet, that heart, my heart, your heart, grandma’s heart, they begin to wear out. Those arteries that pump and push blood are not designed for forever time. Heck, they aren’t even designed for daily ice cream, even as we know ice cream is a soul food.
Wasn’t Camus the guy that wrote, “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on”? Nah, that was Samuel Beckett. My brain is littered with words and someday I’ll be old and I’ll say to my kids, “’The moment of change is the only poem’ who said that?” And if I taught them anything, they will say, “Adrienne Rich.”
Then they might leave me and sit in a kitchen and eat some ice cream and talk about their mom that spews quotes all the damn time. How words are the way she makes meaning out of what can’t be understood. How the moment of change sometimes sucks.
We are here for such a short time, making sunlight on the most golden of summer days. And then we begin to leave, piece by piece.
What is left of us? A dog that follows your daughter-in-law around her house. Paintings of everything we saw and loved in this lifetime. Moments where we sat next to each other not saying anything, glad to be together.
We go on and we don’t go on. We leave buckets of baggies and bags of paper towels. Boxes of paper clips and notes in French. A note on a bedroom door that a daughter fully understands long after her mother passes from this life time. She tells me about it as I sit in her car outside of my daughters’ school, the sun beating down on the windows, us wondering how long our own invincible summers will last.