The Secret of Life

…is enjoying the passing of time. According to the James Taylor song “the secret of life is enjoying the passing of time. Any fool can do it. There’s really nothing to it… “ I’m not so sure about the second part but I’m nearly completely convinced of the first.

A strange thing just happened.  I went to the kitchen to see if there was anything to drink.  Happily, I discovered a 3/4 full bottle of Ketel One and some flat seltzer.  I can make due without the lemon I guess.

As I poured the drink I looked up and on my ribbon board I noticed the photo of Chloe and Eliza playing in a sandbox shaped like a turtle that was in the back yard of the Bay Ridge house.  Chloe and Eliza are six months apart and in the photo they appear to be around two years old.  I couldn’t help but pull it down and look at it for a long time.  I fought back a tear as I looked at it.  Here are the two girls that I spent the last week with now ten years later.  How is it possible?

This week’s issue for my sister Paula, the one that we would come back to over and over when we had a minute or two to actually talk is that Alex is leaving for school on Sunday.  She would be going off to college but elected to go to a boarding prep school in Pennsylvania for an additional year to better prepare for her art education.  The point being of course is what my dad said to me when he dropped me, his youngest, off at college “it’s the end of an era”.

As we pulled out of the driveway to head to the airport this morning, I was waving goodbye to Alex and it occurred to me that this was it.  This was the last trip where I’d be guaranteed to find Alex at the Jorn house.

Alex is the lover of the Jorn kids.  She was the one that always had a hug for you and always made sure to play with the kids all the time.  She’d invent games and make everything more fun for everyone, especially Chloe.  Paula put it this way “Alex is my heart”.  Chesney left last year and now Alex will increase the empty space and deafening quiet befalling the house with the quiet view of the Navasink and the Atlantic beyond.

While I was in Rumson I made a point of driving past the old Wilson Circle property.  A new owner has added a huge addition, a pool and a pool house along with a security fence.  I thought of the time that I climbed up a ladder inside a gutted construction site to see my first view from the widow’s walk, the same widow’s walk that year after year we would lay upon on cooling September nights to watch the stars shower.  Seems like yesterday.  Paula’s new house, humble by comparison, is just two blocks away.

As we drove to the airport this afternoon I was thinking of the time when I dropped Paula at the airport in Milwaukee when she moved from Chicago to Rumson in 1992.  It’s one of the very, very few times I cried because I had to say goodbye to someone. I handed her a card at the airport that had Dorothy of Oz on the front. On the inside I wrote “As Dorothy said to the Scarecrow – I think I’ll miss you most of all.”

Everywhere I turned today I met with the concept that we have a lease on these people we love and it’s a short one.  I had my hand outside the window of Paula’s car this morning on the way back from Red Bank where we had snuck off to have coffee and have a few moments to actually talk.  I couldn’t help but notice the hint of autumn in the air.   And I thought of that quote on the front of the “1000 places to see before you die” book – “life is not about the number of breaths we take but the number of moments that take our breath away” and I was overwhelmed by the appreciation for this last week and at once newly determined to appreciate every moment I’ve been gifted with these people I love.