A carpet of emerald green grass lay in sharp defiance of the shimmering colors of October in Wisconsin. The maples blazed in reds, yellows, oranges -- a painter's pallet of primary and mixed colors.
All of it dazzled me, the desert dweller. My desert colors are lovely, but subtle, the change of season far less dramatic.
Leaves fell on the highway as the car sped past, a whirlwind of turbulence. Late summer valiantly clung to the grass, while fall, a young upstart wrestled away her scepter. Fall would win by the day's end. That is the way it goes. Indian summer would become the gray sleet soon enough.
But today it was the magic point of equilibrium. The sun was hot, the air cool, the sky brilliant, and the leaves at the peak of their poignant power.
It was on this day that we sent The Bear on his Honor Flight, a program for veterans of WW2, Korea, and Viet Nam, that flies them to DC for a tour of Arlington Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, and war monuments, before flying them back for a raucous homecoming. He spent the day as a center of attention, wined and dined from Madison to DC and back again. As he rolled through the cheering gauntlet of clapping family, friends, and community supporters, he cried. There was a lot of healing going on in that procession. I have never seen my father cry, but he is not the same man I knew in other times.We have both changed.
His story of getting here is a long one, but the gist is one of choosing to follow love.
The Bear, was a hard-ass, spit-and-polish, take-no-prisoners father. He plowed through life on a path of status, rank, image, and things. At least that's what I saw.
Now, however, he wants simple things: peace, quiet conversation, companionship, and some time to commune with the changes of the season. He has dementia and knows it. His gait sometimes looks like that of a toddler. His balance isn't the best, and he needs to hang on to things or use a walker. But he is still out there soaking in the breeze, the sun, the changing leaves.
As might be expected, this change of story and season does not come without some wind and turbulence. The Bear has chosen love in the form of a wife other than my mother and a new family. Some people see that as a betrayal to the old ways, the old family, the old story.
You pay a price for love. Love can be scary because it doesn't always follow the rules or the status quo. It can put you face to face with fear, loss, and old wounds. Such is the case with The Bear.
Love, in spite of it all, shines in the faces of those who know her, who follow her, even in the face of the obstacles.
Most of us have a limit to how far we will follow love. Reason, rules, moderation, money, time, energy -- all militate against following love into the wilder zones of fulfillment. The heart, we know, is a lunatic and will ambush the ego and all of its attachments. Love lives in the woods and carries out its ends in guerrilla warfare against all that stands in its way.
The Bear has learned to soak it in and to radiate it out. He has his moments, as we all do, but mostly he is peaceful, open hearted, and waiting to connect with anyone who will make the effort to do so. For better or worse, he has stepped over the balancing point between an old way of being into one that is new, one that sees beneath the veneer of superficial image to the heart beating beneath, to a radiance of acceptance, support, generosity, common ground.
He was a fighter, but has become a lover, as certainly as the trees have gone mad with color.
We don't know what lays down the path of his future, but in this moment, he shines, a supernova of love.
So beautiful, so rare, so fragile, so undeniable. So it goes.
We carry on in the business of our days, the leaves and green grass of October in Wisconsin a dream, a memory of surrender.