The Autumn of My Parents

It is a poignant irony that most of us don’t understand or empathize with the humanity of our parents until later in life. Until then they are ‘other’ and we can’t quite believe that they have the same sort of emotions that we do.

It’s this I think about as I look out on the golden glow of Autumn. All week I have been traveling in state for work. I have been traveling to Western and Central Massachusetts. As I looked out across the picture-post card landscape of a New England fall, every shade of yellow, orange, or red with splashes of green set against a stunning blue sky I suddenly caught my breath. For this is the autumn of my parents.

Both my mom and dad were raised in Massachusetts. In summer they had mountain laurel, green grass, and trees galore; in spring they had every shade of green in the budding trees, and every version of flower in gardens and parks; in the winter it was bare trees, warm homes, hot cocoa, and sledding down hills with friends.

And in Autumn they had the colors I now see every day, until a November chill wind would come, blowing all the leaves down, readying them for winter.

But my mom and dad left all that. For 35 years there was no Autumn. There was slightly chilly, warm, warmer, and warmest – the warmest raised the thermometer to the 120 degree Fahrenheit mark and above.

And I realize how much they must have missed these days of Autumn. How much they must have longed for the crisp apples and crisper mornings. I realize how much they must have missed family – my grandma – the only living grandparent; my aunts and uncles who were their brothers and sisters; my cousins – their nieces and nephews; and all that is New England. They left their world of Autumn and went to a region of Pakistan where Autumn didn’t exist.

So every Autumn for the last seven years I have enjoyed the Autumn of my parents. I have come to know a few things about the world and landscape of their childhood into their early marriage. I have driven the roads they logged so many miles on in old Chevrolets and Ford station wagons. I have stopped at Inns and eaten hot clam chowder, I have gone apple picking coming home with apples of every type, polishing some for a bowl on the table and peeling others to go into beautiful pies and other desserts. I have passed old churches with tall steeples and specially marked parking spots for the minister, the choir director, and the church organist.

I have learned a bit more about their world and the beauty of where they were raised.

It was a few years ago when my husband confronted me saying “You don’t want this area to be a part of your life – but it is a part of your life.” And he’s so right. And I’m so glad. There is the Pakistan of my life, the Egypt of my life, and the New England of my life. They are woven together, tapestry-like in the picture they create.

Removing this part of who I am, of where my parents were raised and what went in to making them the people they are, would sever the tapestry and it would be incomplete.

And ultimately – this story, this tapestry is woven by Someone far more creative than me, by Someone who knows how each thread, each part is woven carefully so it becomes a tapestry of complexity and beauty. Perhaps lovelier in some places, and more worn in others, but incomplete without all of it.

My parents are no longer in this place they love. They have moved on to a new place. And as I look out on the physical Autumn around me, I’m so grateful that where they now live they still have Autumn. And they are in the Autumn of their lives – the place where life becomes even sweeter as they realize the road behind them is longer than the road ahead.

And I am so glad that in this Autumn in their lives they still have the colors. 

8 thoughts on “The Autumn of My Parents

  1. The Autumn of your parents…what a powerful statement…for me, I am living the autumn with my precious mom…there are still colors but the body is like a drying leaf…but the place of color for mom is her still green Life in Him, that to me is amazing…we always can be green in Him and then we move to even greener Living….with Him…thanks.

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  2. Beautiful and thoughtful. I will enjoy revisiting this with the intention to consider the many places that we have lived and their influence on my formation and present identity. Just today, we are in Delhi, India…. and I look forward to having “time” to ponder and respond more thoughtfully… thanks, Marilyn.

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  3. Any reference to your parents is a longed-for and beloved moment. How loved they are… and how grateful I am for the way New England has become a part of your tapestry. You know, if we believe this tapestry is already beautiful – and that IS my only thought when I look at it – then trying to imagine a greater beauty is beyond my ability to envisage. Yet, when our eyes behold Him and we are forever transformed into His likeness, then I will see and know this greater beauty. Oh, what a day that will be.

    Beautifully written, Marilyn. Thank you!

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  4. Marilyn, You’ve stolen my current “thinking theme”. Anxiously awaiting the beautiful fall colors in this hilly, wooded area of Northwest Pennsylvania (and they’re finally here, though later than usual) I’ve been contemplating this fall of our lives. Robert Browning’s poem comes to mind: “Grow old along with me!
    The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in His hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God; See all, nor be afraid!’
    Though the gorgeous colors of fall leaves signal the “beginning of the end” for those leaves, their “last of life” is strikingly beautiful. We have several Christian friends who are aged, frail and wrinkled AND they are beautiful in this last of their lives on earth.
    I’m so grateful that God has given me this autumn of life, and I pray this old chorus may be true for me in all the time He gives: “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” Much love from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Russ

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    1. Ruth, that poem from Browning is one of my favorites, more so as I’ve gotten older. I have to chuckle though at you, 91 years young, talking about your “aged, frail and wrinkled ” friends! You are a beautiful example of staying young. We were at a senior brunch this morning, a group called: SALT – SeniorAdults Living Triumphantly. The MC said someone had suggested a new name – Seniors Acting Like Teenagers! Love you, dear Sis in law.

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  5. Beautifully written, Marilyn. Our parents and grandparents are very much a part of us, our history. The more we learn of them and their history the richer, fuller and more meaningful our own lives become.

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  6. Marilyn, we all have such sweet, fond memories of your folks. Thank you for sharing this. It brought me to tears. They are special people to us and many others. I don’t have any aunts and uncles or grandparents that I was ever close to and got to know well. God blessed me with your folks and Grandma K filling a gap in my life by showing me the love of Jesus. And of course, I have to mention Jeff’s parents too as being a great example of faithfulness and living out the gospel as they poured their lives into the lives of others. Something I had never seen or known before. We love them and you all so much.

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    1. Thank you Jeanne, for your sweet words. You and Jeff have blessed us in so many ways, along with your beautiful daughters. Love you so much

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