Brown. Desert. Hot. Humid. Dusty. Desolate. 6am. Every summer day. Rain or shine. This is where she parked the car in 1989.
Years later I would wonder why she chose that as our walking path.
It wasn’t as if there weren’t more aesthetically pleasing options that could include trees and bright flowers. It wasn’t as if they were a further drive from those off the beaten path roads she took us to. My grandmother purposely chose those empty roads as our daily summer walking path.
In the beginning I hated it because it was hot, humid and dusty. I was a teenager stagnated between being in shape and out of shape, a place where humidity reminded me that my breasts and thighs weren’t supposed to get wet at the mere sight of the sun. My grandmother on the other hand was as out of shape as grandmothers are occasionally expected to be yet she’d exited the car with no hesitation to begin walking and after only a few minutes was several hundred yards ahead of me, dragging her walking stick along as if it were a dog.
Those first few weeks of summer I trudged behind her squinting at the sunshine and silently bemoaning my summer fate. Not once did I complain in words to her because rather than wanting me to get in shape I believed she just wanted me along for the company.
After fifty-five years that was the summer she chose to stop smoking cigarettes and drinking beer in ‘private’ even though I always knew Old English 800 in a lunch paper bag wasn’t some magical grandparent elixir. Actually, maybe it was. She lost twenty-five pounds that summer and no doubt an immeasurable amount of pain that would reflect as weightless on man’s scales.
My grandmother believed her battles could not be seen by others and while I believe her walking was an attempt to fight in private, she pulled me along anyways. She never told me in words that she’d stopped smoking and drinking but I observed her so knew. She never told me she needed to fight her internal battles in the harshness of external nature but because she had options, I knew she’d chosen the harsher path on purpose.
Maybe she knew we would be the only ones walking those dry and dusty roads. Maybe she believed the scenic route would make her forget the need to fight. Maybe she just liked the heat, humidity and dirt.
Maybe I was just a walking companion for a summer. Maybe she didn’t trust me at her home by myself. Maybe she was planting memories in my mind knowing I’d one day exhume and examine them.
In my own way I understand her chosen path. I don’t believe she was turning her back on the scenic path nor do I believe she was turning her back on less harsh seasons.
I believe she was showing me what it takes to overcome an internal battle and while it was her battle alone, she was also showing me how to get home and while silent most of the time it was my desire to stay in observation that showed her my love.
Sometimes when we feel that no one is with is we couldn’t be further from the truth because it’s often what we can’t see that drives away the dust, leads us to the end of the battling path and frees us to live proliferating music as sprouted from a peaceful heart.
Wander no more.