I hear November came and went as usual though I was sure it had fallen off the calendar because I missed quite a bit of it. My mother wasn't doing well and I went to visit for a week. Ten days after I came home I bought a ticket to fly back out the next day for another week.
My mom's showing clear signs of Alzheimer's, though I've since learned that the A-team label isn't always assigned because it's a diagnosis of exclusion given after having ruled out other forms of dementia. I've only scratched the surface of what there is to learn about it, so I'm sure I'm saying that wrong.
During my first trip, tamaracks were the color of burnt butterscotch and aspen leaves were a vibrant goldenrod. I'd never been to Montana in the fall, so it was a privilege to see autumn color gracing the mountains and valleys alike, even if many leaves had already fallen. The piles of fallen color were just as beautiful as the leaves that still clung to their trees, as if nature had spilled a paint bucket on roadsides, and on yards within weathered picket fences, and on the step-on-a-crack-break-your-mother's-back seams of concrete sidewalks that ran down streets outside fences separating shotguns and cape cods from summer stormcloud grey asphalt.
One morning as my first visit drew to a close, I grabbed my camera and took a turn outside in the glitter of sun shining on hoarfrost covered grass and cattails, letting the colors and crisp air lead me. It wasn't until I was nearly done shooting that I realized the pattern: I was drawn to pairs of things, and to leaves caught in half-fallen states, propped up by branches they'd found in their descent or trapped in chicken wire wrapped for protection around the bottoms of tree trunks.
My mom and dad's connection is so strong after 57 years of marriage that even fleeting memory cannot separate them. They remain together in their own mid-air state -- neither present, nor past. In transition. Whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears, 'necking' as my father says with a giggle, and living within the state of transition as if it's a normal part of life. Because it is. Because in the midst of changing seasons, my parents prove that two people can hold tightly to each other no matter the breeze that tries to pluck them from the branch they've grown on for almost six decades.
In the midst of the cold, grey winter, memories of fall color live.