It must be the way the way the air flows down from the Appalachians Mountains into the foothills because nowhere in the world feels or smells like this place of my childhood. Maybe it is even the way the two creeks wrap around us in the nearby valleys to merge into one in the near woods that is responsible for it. It’s a wonderful smell, all fresh and clean, with the warm smell of sunshine or the clean refreshing scent of rain. Nowhere do I feel more grounded. But today even though the sun is shining and the breeze blows cool off the far away mountains it seems smaller, more fragile than before and I am a bit off kilter.
I suppose it is the towering debris field or maybe the shattered remains of my childhood home that have me ready to run. Run into the woods that no longer resemble the haven of our youth or maybe the wide open field across our road that that now hold so many of the mementos that were once safe and secure in my Mother’s house and in her care. I have been gone a long time, but not so very long to forget the magic and grace that prevailed here, that my siblings and I shared here. I imagine one never forgets such a gift as that regardless of age or distance. With such devastation abounding one finds solace in the small things. Like the family picture found intact in the open field or the martin gourds still strung high above full of chattering birds, or maybe the lone small tree with its tattered remaining leaves still standing among the mighty fallen oaks and pines.
And then, then there is the greatest miracle of all, both of my parents are safe and unharmed. My bigger than life truck driving Father, a Korean war veteran, still the most sought after Gideon Testimonial speaker to date and charming to his core at 77 years of age. His hearing failing him as he sits feeble and frail on the back cement steps in the only remaining shade of what is left of their home. My Mother, calm and gracious as ever trying to bring some measure of order to what is left of the home they struggled to build together more than 50 years ago. But she is grateful, grateful in all things. Grateful her six remaining children are safe, as well as her husband of nearly 55 yrs and that the tornado did not take everything. One never forgets the feel of the loss of everything. This is sadly not the worst that they have lived through together and she knows first hand that there are worse things, she has seen it up close and personal and in the bright light of day. But my Mother is grace under fire and she does it so genuinely that most people never notice.
They are still a beautiful couple, regardless of how age has found them. She always loving him just like he is and he knowing she is the reason he fought to survive all those years ago. For her love alone, just to be with her. Life passes swiftly and can change and splinter in seconds, but for us, no matter what we loose, no matter where we go, no matter when it is time for them to leave us. We were blessed to be surrounded by their love, the one true thing.