The thing about an almost 70 degree day in February, the barbeque grills come out from hiding. Football season may be over and there’s no excuse to tailgate, so we just tailgate in our own backyards.
This kind of day is a gift of a summer day in the dead of winter. Smoke drifts to the sky, the odor of hot and spicy, tangy sauce, sizzling hot meat, or grilled vegetables brings the scent of summer.
“It’s like a summer night,” I said.
“Yeah, except there aren’t any bugs,” my friend observed.
“I can’t argue with that,” I said. I walked to the edge of the deck to gaze up at the full moon and twinkling stars. “I’ve heard that city lights can keep people from seeing the stars.” As I stood there looking up at the sky, I thought about how seldom I take time to admire the beauty of a night sky.
With all the things that change in our lives, people coming and going, days filled with work, evenings filled with commitments, and nights that seem way too short for sleeping, the night sky remains unchanged. Some of the beauty twinkling above could have burned out a million years ago, but their light and essence can still be admired on a February night in 2011. Looking at the sky is like looking at history—theirs and mine.
The sky looks the same as it did when I was a child lying on one of my grandma’s quilts thrown on the front yard of my grandparent’s little house north of Stover. The sounds of music filled the air as my uncles played their guitars and sang country songs to blend with a backdrop of cicadas, bullfrogs and whippoorwills.
Those were simple days. As a child, I never knew the pain of loss or the taste of failure. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had never known anyone that had died. I guess I just thought we would live forever and the days of summer would stretch to the edges of the earth to infinity. Sickness, pain, and sorrow seemed as many light years away as a distant star.
When I drove home after the backyard barbeque, I turned up the volume on my XM Radio. My son had driven my car and left it on Channel 10 which plays old time country music. I was just considering turning it to a different channel but couldn’t resist listening to the Grand Ole Opry staring Hank Williams, Senior, not Junior. I just caught the very end of the show and listening to the hillbilly twang, reminded me of how everyone spoke when I was a child.
The program went back to other old time country music. One thing about country music—it’s usually tells a sad story or laments lost love. Too often the songs on Channel 10, are ones that Jim sang.
Merle Haggard sang the lyrics, “always wanting you, but never having you” and I had an ah-ha moment. Although I always assumed the song was about unrequited love, I suddenly realized it could be about lost love. How many of us know the empty ache of realization that we will never, ever be able to hold a loved one in our arms again?
We can feel that sense of loss when changes brought about by dementia have erased the person we knew. We feel the emptiness of knowing he is still there in some ways, but vanished in others. Jim’s music had always been such a part of him that when he lost his ability to play his guitar, we both lost a chunk of our lives. It was a change we didn’t want.
Maybe when too much has changed, we should look to the sky to remind ourselves that our lives are only a small speck compared to eternity. The sky looks the same to me as it did when I was a kid and looks the same as when my grandparents were kids. When everything changes around us, we need to take a deep breath of fresh air and take comfort in watching the same moon glide across the heavens and knowing that we can’t count the stars.
Copyright © February 2011 by L.S. Fisher