January 26, 2013
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Greetings from Detroit...the postcard you send when you live in Detroit (or more likely, thereabouts).
I left Detroit after college...after years of reading the New York Times Classified Section every Sunday and wondering about this unbelievable land where there were actually want ads for artists, dancers, musicians...and writers. My brother saw the musician part and he soon followed.
Nothing was wrong with THAT picture. My folks came to visit, I went back for 30,000 mile psychological tune-ups, for weddings and funerals, to show off my babies and to dive into my beautiful fresh water Great Lakes (What is wrong with you ocean people, have you not noticed the salt??)
And life worked for us all.
The wrong part comes now, 37 years later. Because life at age 85 works differently, my parents want to be near me. The assurance that I will land there as soon as a plane can take me is no longer enough...they feel frail, they are frail. And so they decided it was time to leave. Next month, they will be in an apartment near me here in Pennsylvania. They will leave behind everything they know, for although they are well-travelled, Detroit(ish) has been their home for their whole lives.They leave their brothers and sister, their bridge games and Torah study groups, the library where Mom used to work and the high school buddies Dad sees twice a week.
They leave their son's grave.
Mom says she feels fine about leaving, she is mostly overwhelmed by the Stuff Management of a move and I can ease that for her. Dad moves through all the decisions like the hero he has become to me. When pressed, he tells me, "well, every once in a while, I do wonder what it will be like."
So this is what is heartbreakingly wrong with this picture. I left home on a wind and a whim in the space between teen and adult and now, they are paying the price. And they are not alone. Aging parents around the country are becoming immigrants in a stage when it is oh so difficult to rip down and rebuild. And it is not because their offspring were seeking religious freedom, arable land, or sanctuary from bombs and bullets.
Its because they needed to be who they were. A writer. A musician. Fleeing from suburbia, flyng toward who knows what?
I know I didn't do anything wrong, I know I am finding Grace in the role I have now taken on. I know I am by their sides in the ways they need it most.
It just seems so damn sad. Doesn't it?