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Fields of Gold

They call them “the golden years,” but they could also be called “the waiting room years” since the elderly spend a lot of time in waiting rooms in search of repair, reassurance, or surcease from pain. Still, as I find myself now — strange, so strange — standing at the threshold of old age, I also learn that there is, without question, gold to be seen in the view from this height; from this point on the path that leads to the back country.

As she nears 103 years of age, my mother sees more of her doctor than she has in decades past, but it is usually routine. On occasion a visit is prompted by a trip to the emergency room the previous evening. This time, however, her scheduled visit was routine. So routine that the doctor, who had scheduled her, was unsure of exactly why she was there.

My mother still mildly resents that fact that my brothers and I quietly made her car disappear when she was about 96, but she’s also glad she had the foresight to give birth to a chauffeur some seventy years ago. That chauffeur, of course, would be me.

As the appointment was late in the afternoon, I came down to my mother’s apartment in Chico from my home on the ridge to drive her to the doctor. I always budget plenty of time for these missions since everything “elderly” always takes three times as long as the everything “not elderly.” This is true regardless of whatever estimate you’ve made the day before.

By the time the doctor visit was over it was a bit too late for lunch and somewhat early for dinner. So I took my mother for a drive around town.

We took a quick circuit of the neighborhood and she remarked on how striking the sky was. My mother is a keen observer of clouds and seasons. She favors the early spring days when fat clumps of cumulus scud on the far horizon of the great central valley.

Then we took a drive down Chico’s Esplanade. It’s a mile long stretch of boulevard which, if you set your speed at precisely 28 milers per hour, allows you to cruise the length of the Esplande into town hitting all the lights. It’s a smooth and sedate ride and one my mother made sure would remain unimpeded during her political phase at age 101 to save the Esplanade from roundabouts. She won.

As we cruised down the Esplanade my mother was disappointed that the ginkgo trees had not yet turned to gold. I assured her we’d drive down the Esplanade often this autumn so she wouldn’t miss them.

Then, after a slow turn around downtown Chico in which my mother reminded me of several stores that had been and gone over the years, we decided to have an early supper. We went to one of my mother’s preferred places, the Tea Bar, and had salmon and salad at tables outside facing the avenue and watching the afternoon fade into evening. We discussed the news of the day and told stories about ourselves and laughed at something trivial and foolish.

And so there we were. Just an ordinary old man in his 70s in an ordinary town having an ordinary dinner with his mother at 103; both laughing as the dusk deepened around them.

I don’t really remember the details of what we talked about, but all this time in the back of my mind I’m  thinking, “This. This is gold.”


Sting singing Fields Of Gold using a lute, with Edin Karamazov

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Geoff C. The Saltine September 30, 2017, 5:57 PM

    You my man are a good son , and God will bless you , as he already has.

  • Hale Adams September 30, 2017, 6:38 PM

    Of course, I going to tell you something you already know:

    Cherish your mother while she is still here.

    I envy you, Gerard. I wish my mother and I could have gotten along half as well you do with your mother. (It doesn’t help that she and I are difficult, each in our own way.) But now my mother isn’t really here anymore — her mind has been slipping for years, and now she’s asleep most of the time. When she isn’t asleep, she tries to converse with me, but the words don’t make much sense. As near as I can figure, she spends a good bit of her time in her dormitory at Bucknell circa 1948. Sort of like your Uncle Warner (?) and his remark about the fish being “thick on the ground”.

    God bless you and your mother. May she have as many more birthdays as she wants.

    Hale Adams,
    Pikesville, People’s still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  • Hale Adams September 30, 2017, 6:41 PM

    Gah. I really need to proof-read my posts. ” ….. I going …..” *wince* ^_^

  • R Daneel September 30, 2017, 7:09 PM

    Nicely said and written.

  • Howard Nelson September 30, 2017, 8:12 PM

    Yes, growing old —
    Now not only reflecting,
    But glowing gold.
    And with you here, I smile,
    For you are my dearest dear.

    Yes, this is all worth what was then and what will be.

  • Nori September 30, 2017, 9:10 PM

    You just described this past Wednesday, albeit in this hotter, harsher clime.
    “The waiting room years.” Yes. These missions do take 3 times as long. Proper restroom facilities are important, and essential for wherever you go, grab bars being #1.
    The gingko trees on the Esplanade, for us are the chinese pistachios in our favorite park. The leaves turn red, several shades.
    We always debate which place to have lunch/early dinner, but most always choose the Pacific/fusion place with the very best hot ‘n sour soup she adores.
    Everyday is a gift, and golden.

  • WiscoDave October 1, 2017, 2:55 AM

    God continue to Bless the both of you.
    You’re a good man and son.
    Wish, in a way, I could have shared moments like this with my parents. But then, it wasn’t really our way. Maybe it should have been.
    Time passes. Regrets can be many if dwelled upon.

  • James Graham October 1, 2017, 6:04 AM

    Being less than two years from the big nine-O, I loved reading that.
    Luck is a big factor but I think physical and mental activity helps.

  • azlibertarian October 1, 2017, 6:43 AM

    **clap, clap, clap**

  • Casey Klahn October 1, 2017, 7:00 AM

    “…laughed at something trivial and foolish.” This is itself our blessing for reading.

  • K & T Berry October 1, 2017, 7:50 AM

    Love the story and the attention to what matters. Pure Gold. Starts my Sunday off perfectly. Thanks

  • Jim in Alaska October 1, 2017, 2:27 PM

    Excellent posting, as usual, Gerard. However as one also approaching old age,(and having a 7 or 8 year head start on you on the run) more and more I’m thinking of that period as the contemplative, rather than the waiting room, years. Seems like we spent a lot of our lives running to get ahead or even just to stay in place, now we begin to have some time to just sit and think about it all, look back with satisfaction & look forward with curiosity. & now that I think about it, waiting rooms ain’t bad places to sit and think.

    Oh, & too bad yo mamma wasn’t up here in North Pole to stop the roundabouts but I’ve learned to live with them.

  • pbird October 1, 2017, 3:51 PM

    WA is rife with roundabouts. Hate em, hate em hate em.
    Good for your mamma! And it is true everything takes three times as long. My parents are there too.

  • StephenB October 1, 2017, 6:02 PM

    Overheard at church, “Hurry up!” “Mom, I’m 77, I can’t hurry up!”

  • Bill Jones October 1, 2017, 6:11 PM

    I envy you.

    My mother died when I was 13.

  • Jimmy October 1, 2017, 8:10 PM

    I asked my sister on her birthday how old she was.

    “I’m as old as God. And so are you.”

    “But that would mean Mom is older!” I replied

    She laughed. “Of course! Even God has a Mother.!”

  • Ella Greene October 2, 2017, 7:13 AM

    “This. This is gold.” Absolutely..Thanks for sharing.

  • David October 2, 2017, 7:24 AM

    Years ago, on a vacation to the Outer Banks, my former brother in law, my 8 year old son and I drove down to Okracoke island from our house up north on the island. The sun was shining off the ocean, but a storm was coming. That song by Sting was playing on the radio. I looked back at my son, with the sort of eery ocean light shining off his face, and he was so beautiful I thought I would cry. This moment will never come again, I knew.
    My mother wouild be 96, had she not been killed in a stupid auto accident 7 years ago.
    And I know just what you mean, about just small talk, that just seems like gold.

    Sometimes, we just never realize the most important moments of our lives, until they are gone, like a stranger passing by us in the street. Gone forever, like tears in the rain. Never to return.

  • Bob October 2, 2017, 8:39 AM

    Evocative, and very touching and sweet. It was a pleasure to read.

  • Sue Cannon October 7, 2017, 7:33 AM

    So beautiful! So blessed! Touched my heart and I loved it!