It’s the tightrope season. A shaky line between summer and winter that could drop either way – snow or soul shaking thunderstorms; socks in the morning or sandals; trudging steps to inevitable winter or a woozy last skinny dip in the lake at dusk.
Today, silence woke me up, not the birds. Not even the 4:15 cardinal was around to sing awake the day. Instead, crickets provided the first clatter of the morning. By the time the sun fanned half-tone rays over the roof, the cicadas chimed in. But no birds. My budgie – Kiwi – is silent, too. The bird-feeder is full and not a single goddamn feathered-pecker is there.
I’m off-balance. Too many things have changed in the last few months. My husband, a former high school teacher, has retired, making me the bringer-home of bacon. Our middle daughter started her first year at university (when did she grow up?). Our oldest is entering her final year of undergrad and is in a dither about what to do next. I am starting an intensive 4 month writing course and I’m scared shitless. Next week I have knee surgery. To say the household is unsettled is to observe that San Francisco is built on shaky ground.
Becoming the official bread-winner is not a heart lightening task at the bruised age of 58. Ironically, I was the breadwinner at the beginning of the marriage, too, and find myself, as a result of the usual choices lots of people make in their working lives, having to work for quite a few years to come. While my husband forgets what day of the week it is and now drives everywhere at the speed limit commenting what a hurry everyone else is in, I watch the running clock as I try to get done the things that must get done for someone else’s benefit. But the clock is not sticking to the speed limit. The hands seem to whirl around as fast as hurricane force winds.
One of the kids asked me how old I would be when I retired. “Sixty-five,” I said.
“How old will dad be?”
“That sucks,” she said.
It seems a long way off and yet it isn’t. Much can happen in 7 years. Mild panic pushed at me when I did the age calculation. Imagine me on the tightrope, left leg off the wire, arms windmilling as I tried to find equilibrium.
While back-to-school clothes shopping with my youngest daughter, she observed how much she likes the fall because everyone dresses nicely.
In the summer you’re sweaty and hot so you dress like trash to stay cool. In the winter you don’t care what you look like cuz you’re just trying to stay warm. But in the fall everybody cares.
I’m almost across the tightrope. I can see my husband waiting for me on the landing platform. But I have a few more treacherous steps to navigate, not the least of which is writing. Writing is my last gasp of passion – don’t tell him I said that – and I indulge it with the awareness that I am doing it ONLY for myself. At this stage of life, the energy and time required to search for publication opportunities seems overwhelming. And so I debate with myself “What’s the point of writing at all?”
I don’t know what the point of writing is, but I know it is fall. As noted by my fashionista daughter, I care in the fall. Fall is the tightrope season. Fall is a balancing act imperative – winter is coming. I’m shaky at times and steady at others. This is normal, right?
Today my left leg is secure on the rope and the right leg begins to tip. Bacon in one hand, a dictionary in the other, I am petrified of falling.