Sunday, May 22, 2016

Battling Spring

It has been an exceptionally slow spring with several false starts.  The flowers poked their daring heads above the ground only to be covered by several inches of snow.  Again and again this would happen.  Tantalizingly, temperatures climbed as we, throwing caution to the balmy wind, celebrated spring only to have our hopes dashed with the next bout of deep cold.  And then we'd say, "What did you expect?  This is New York" and go about our business properly chastened.  It is a rookie mistake to expect spring during the spring months in Western New York.  But those little flowers and green leaf buds were indomitable and while I hardly dared dream, I kept consulting them like oracles.  Today I dare to hope that we have turned a corner.  There was a bit of ice in yesterday's rain, but the lilacs are in bloom and despite the chill in the air this morning, there is too much green on the trees and too much promise in the sunshine for me to believe that winter can do any more than leave us with a parting cuff and cussing.  Winter can be a bitter old man, but there's not much bite left in him.

On the branch just outside the window sits a robin.  He's a robust fellow who persistently flies against the windowpane--thump!--and then returns to his perch to glare in at us.  We are told that he sees his reflection and thinking another cheeky male has come to disrupt his household, he stands guard periodically giving the perceived interloper what-for by smacking his fat little body against the glass.  We've attempted to discourage this delusional behavior by a variety of means, but he is persistent.  In fact, this is his second year of window-smacking devotion to his mate.  He is delusional, but he is also admiral in his loyalty.  What worries me, however, is that he will do himself harm.  I worry not just about his plump little robin body, but about his dear little robin spirit.  For two years he has lived with the anxiety of another male robin invading his peaceful domestic life and potentially causing harm to his little robin family.  I may know that he need not worry, but the robin doesn't know that.  He stands guard day after day with worry in his tiny heart.

Perhaps I anthropomorphize too much, but it is difficult not to feel great sympathy for the robin.  My spring has been thematic.  I might file the entire thing in my brain as Worried Hope.  Since my grandmother's passing, all the energies in my life that seemed frozen have begun to thaw.  For an eternity, I waited sometimes patiently (but mostly impatiently) for Something Good to Happen knowing that I could not really move toward that Something until "Grandma Doesn't Need Me Anymore."  Well, that time is now.  And now, like the spring itself, there have been persistent indications from the Universe that change is coming.

My husband has graduated from college ending his long internship at the wildlife refuge where he works.  This took us by surprise since we thought they planned to either keep him on a few months longer or maybe even open a permanent position for him.  No dice.  This was not a tragedy.  Having satisfied his obligations in a special federal program, he has earned assistance finding  a permanent federal job somewhere in the country and has already landed a term position that will pay the bills while we search.  I tried to be enthusiastic about the idea of moving to a new place, but I failed.  I was too frightened and sad about the situation to muster up anything like believable enthusiasm.  I suppose I gave it all away when I couldn't stop crying about it.

 My career as an adjunct lecturer also seems to be coming to a close.  I always said that if my husband found work elsewhere or if my father, with whom I work, retired, I would leave my thankless job and good riddance.  I hoped for one of those two things to happen.  Longed for it.  Prayed for it.  And now my husband has found work elsewhere and my father has announced his retirement.  And me?  Far from feeling good about these changes for which I've prayed, I'm just unsettled and uncertain.  Everything is changing.  Too fast.

My family is changing too.  Grandma is gone.  I can't even wrap my head around that. 

My son turned 18 and let us know that he didn't plan to come with us when we moved deciding instead to take up my parents' offer to him to continue to live with them.  My younger son, while still "the baby", is increasingly independent and rapidly approaching his teen years. My daughter turned 17 and became very interested in being herself.  She is still a loving and conscientious girl, but is now much taller, hipper, and more obviously assertive in her quest to be unlike her mother.  I knew this was coming, but when I saw her dressed for her prom, I was a wreck of pride and sorrow.  I bought her dress, shoes, and make-up, helped her pick out jewelry, and watched her father take a thousand pictures as she and her best friend vamped for the camera.  She is so different than I was at her age.  I was too much of a nerd to ever contemplate going to prom, but I did my best not to let her know how scared I am of that difference.  I cheerfully joined her in prom preparations.  Dress, hair, make-up--I tried to be as cool as a mom can be.    As she and her friend pulled out of the driveway, I sat on the front porch in my sensible shoes and long skirt and waved a happy good-luck-and-have-a-great-time! good-bye to my gorgeous short-skirted, long-legged daughter.    Then, when she was down the road, I burst into tears and wept for at least half an hour straight.


So that's how it goes.  Spring is beautiful and heart breaking.  It is too much for me.  At first, you just see a few green shoots, a little blossom, a budding tree.  You feel that you can observe it, understand it, keep track of it.  I miss the discipline and certainty of winter, agent of ice and dormancy.  Blessed winter keeps checking life's haste, calls it back to order, cautions its wayward ramblings.  But the dear conservative winter can only hold on so long before spring well and truly breaks through those bonds and erupts in a riot of green.  I walk outside and try to imagine the still winter, the austere lines of gray branch against white snow and white sky.  I try to remember when the air was not full of a cacophony of bird song.  Spring is a time of hope, but like my robin friend, I worry and stand guard at the window.  I see threats to my family everywhere in this unruly eruption of change.  I feel like I must, if I am to be at all vigilant for my family's sake, run up against the hard edges of reality again and again.

But it occurs to me that this too might be delusion.  Is it possible that while the warm spring welcomes growth all around me I am only staring down a delusion. Perhaps I am no less foolish than the robin outside my window.