November is upon us. The coolness settles during the early morning hours as my bare feet slip slowly from the warm blankets. The alarm blares, the signature clinking of spoons scooping cereal reach my ears and the dogs bark for their breakfast.
As I shuffle farther from my bed, a distinct shiver travels up my spine. An image of my younger self sinking deeper under the thick blankets cause envy. That time when I could shield myself from the persistent tug of obstacles. Of stubborn responsibilities. And gain a few more minutes of solitude.
Taking one last mournful look at the tousled down comforter, something urges my feet forward. There is no time for wasted hope.
Adulthood brings freedom. Freedom yearned for during those youthful days of no bills, no kids, no weight of expectation. The shield of warmth we once took for granted is rare.
Six days ago, it was October and Halloween activities buzzed around town. Diva was set and ready for a night of fun and luckily, the previous night’s storms had cleared out. Her delicate butterfly wings fluttered around her body. Her neon pink pumpkin dangled from the hand, swaying with carefree momentum caused by the promise of treats.
Youthful chatter flowed back to us, as we followed close behind. Diva’s laughter held a promise of life. The discussions of candy trades made me laugh. Their vocalized pleas for more chocolate and full size candy bars from the next stop, made wonder if she would share at least one piece. Treasuring the playfulness they exuded, I shoved aside the realization that she was my last butterfly. My last child to take trick-or-treating.
During our quest for bigger and better candy, my husband’s phone rang. Our eyes met. He answered. Our group slows – or maybe it was just me that felt the world pause. Taking the phone from his steady hand, I separated from the crowd.Under the muted glow of a street light, I listened to my Dad’s voice. The news was expected, yet I felt unprepared.
We hoped for more time.
I recall my voice cracking as I whispered words of acknowledgement. The sting of warm tears washed through my composure and amongst the fading voices of butterflies, dazzling rock-n-roll stars and cute car-hops, I was told that my Grandmother was gone.
My husband’s shadow appeared beside me. His arm pulled me close to his side, making us one. Sharing his strength and anchoring me. The sweetness of being outdoors lingered, mixing with my sorrow.I released a breath into the night air and his loving lips press a soft kiss upon my temple.
The Grandmother who I have known for 39 years…..the one who French braided my hair and still colored pictures with my children at the age of 85…..was gone.The woman who loved Bingo and dressed in costumes for simple enjoyment wouldn’t open her eyes with tomorrow’s light. She was gone.
Acknowledging the reality of death is a double-edged sword.
I wasn’t ready.
But, are we ever?
The bittersweet moments from long ago, flashed like lightning. Striking. Leaving behind shattered, burnt remnants. Visions of my younger self appear and stick, refusing to fade until I looked closer.
The loving butterfly kisses shared over powdered sugar donuts and my youthful giggles have been lost for so long. I was five. Maybe six. My long blonde hair pulled back from my face. Soft, white powder sprinkled, like snow, on the black and white checkered counter top.
Sitting upon a tall bar stool, I would fidget, trying to get closer. My clothes and small hands were covered with sweetness. The decadent taste of childhood sat upon my tongue. I was naïve and oblivious to everything except the treat in front of me.
My Grandmother’s hand was always resting on my back, making sure I did not fall. My fidgeting was for independence. At five, I did not need to be steadied. Or so I thought.
She was gone and the realization becomes an itchy blanket. Suffocating me, yet I want to pull it tighter. I heard my little butterfly laughing as she moved toward to the next porch light. A beacon of childhood happiness and sugar excited her and I knew I could not extinguish it….. just yet. I caught sight of her wings. Deep oranges and vivid reds enveloped her body and I was reminded of a book my grandmother read to me about a the journey of a Monarch Butterfly. The heightened memories from this old bedtime story bared an uncanny resemblance to my daughters costume.
We are huddle inside the warmth of familiarity as children. Then, our wings mature, preparing us for flight. Teaching us to live. To love. To experience the joys of our own creations. To savor the soft, flutter of butterfly kisses.
Life is beautiful.
Life is painful.
Life follows a destiny…one we seldom acknowledge. Until it’s over.