On the eve of the day our nation commemorates its declaration of independence from its former colonial master, I am in Western Massachusetts after a brief trip to Boston thinking about more personal declarations.
They take different forms.
In large part due to her grit, tenacity and hard work, Mom has become much more physically independent than she was last year at this time.
Whereas then she was limping around on an arthritic and barely functional hip, now she has acclimated more fully to the artificial replacement and was walking around her apartment, walker-free, in the late afternoon and early evening.
This physical independence augurs well for her resuming “normal” independence at some point in the not too distant future-a state that seemed well-nigh inconceivable a year ago March, when she was in the grips of congestive heart failure and her survival, far more than her independence, was in very real question.
For his part, Dad is grappling with the emotions that come from approaching the anniversary of Diane’s death. Dad told me on a number of occasions that he never felt completely understood by another human being until he and Diane connected that way in 1986, when he was 52 years old.
Her love, compassionate support and witness throughout the more than 20 years they were together gave him an independence from the childhood pain and isolation he had experienced. While he has grieved publicly and heartily this past year, and appeared to me to be approaching the anniversary with understandable heaviness, he also seems to have incorporated the message and method of how Diane lived and, I believe would have wanted him to live: with gratitude and joy.
Dunreith, Aidan and I rode back to Western Massachusetts this afternoon, after a lengthy walk and breakfast with Dad.
Aidan was behind the wheel of Helen’s green Mercedes, which has more than 200,000 miles. It took him a little while to master the vagaries of this particular car, in which the car tilts toward the left and in which you have to press both the gas and brake pedals pretty hard to get a response from either, but he did it, and without too much difficulty.
I asked him as we were driving by the sights of Wilbraham and Monson Academy, where Dunreith and he lived for the first five years of his life, if it was strange for him to be driving around where he previously had been driven.
He acknowledged that it was, a little, but added that, at this point, close to a year after he got his license and close to two after he first drove, driving somewhere is not that strange.
Each of the people are among the ranks of those who matter most in the world to me.
Each, in their own way, spent part of the weekend unintentionally declaring their independence.
For me, thanks to them, Dunreith and all who have supported me, I have been feeling more to write what I see, what I feel, and what I hear, less and less fettered by audience response or subject’s reaction.
This is not to say that I write with wanton disregard for people’s feelings, or that in any way I think I am the only person who has something to say on any particular topic, but it is rather to assert both my right and discipline of recording my thoughts, and, more than that, to do so in a manner that is true to me.
I remember vividly reading, in Dr. Thomas’ Art of the Essay class sophomore year, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s injunction to “speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense.”
I didn’t totally understand it then, and am not certain I do so now.
But I do know that I applaud the declarations of unadulterated and independent self that Mom, Dad and Aidan made this weekend. I do know they give me strength to live close to myself, to write what I have just now, and to push forward with digging inside and searching outside to have something meaningful to say.
I hope all enjoy tomorrow’s celebrations, and, perhaps, find some time in their day to reflect on their own, and others’ declarations of independence.