On Thursday we left Montreal rather precipitously, planning to attend a 2:00 pm graveside service for an elderly friend the following day in Washington, D.C. After two hours in solid rush hour traffic, trying to get out of the city, we headed down the Northway, but by the time we reached Albany it was already late and we were exhausted. So we crashed in a motel in Schenectady, and the next morning reassessed our plans; it was clear then (as it had really been the night before) that we just didn't have enough time to make it to Washington by early afternoon.
So we contacted our family and friends, explaining the situation and saying that we'd be with them in spirit (as one of them remarked, Jewish funerals and long-distance travel are a difficult combination), and instead made a right-angle turn onto the New York Thruway to go see my father.
As it turned out, we had a beautiful drive, both going and coming, and a wonderful fall weekend in the countryside that I love so much. After all the busyness of preparing for J.'s book launch, it was a restorative few days, with long nights of deep sleep, natural quiet broken only by the calls of geese and the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks, foggy mornings that gave way to bright clear days, the saturated color of hardwoods in autumn, and time for me to wander in the woods and along the lakeshore, and sit quietly looking out on the meadows. I had been wanting to go there very much; this felt like an unexpected gift.
Most importantly, it was a good visit with my father, who's doing very well. We had already shopped for a turkey, and bought a giant stalk of Brussels sprouts, a berry pie, lettuces, cranberries, and new potatoes at the local farmers' market on Saturday morning -- all the ingredients for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner for my father, his girlfriend, and four guests. The next day Dad and I raked and hauled a lot of leaves, and then he went up on the roof to clean the gutters while I steadied the ladder and fetched whatever was needed. It was such a glorious day - crisp and bright - and I felt so happy and so much in the moment. In spite of his age, Dad was very nimble up there on the roof, and quite glad to be getting this task done. At one point he asked for a rope, and I tossed him a coiled clothesline, which he deftly caught. "Nice toss, eh?" I remarked.
He grinned down at me: "And did you see that catch? Left-handed!" and it seemed like twenty, or thirty, or forty years had just been erased.
He sat back on the roof and surveyed the shingles, and the trees beyond them that so faithfully shed their leaves to clog the gutters and the drainpipes. "You're going to need to put a new roof on here one of these years," he said, turning back toward me after a few minutes with a wry look.
"How old is it?" I asked.
"This one's original, and it's still OK," he said, gesturing toward the addition he and my mother put on in the 1990s. "The other one has been replaced once. I did it with Harold Shaw, long time ago." He shook his head: "I didn't like doing that work very much."
"At least it's not as steep as ours was in Vermont."
"Right. I went up there with Jonathan once - that was really steep. No matter what, houses are so much work, there's always stuff to do..."
"But it was fun; your mother and I had a good time building it, figuring stuff out."
He uncoiled the rope: "OK, Bethie, now go get me a bucket half-full of water, and let's see if we can get any of it to go down through the drain..."