Not long ago, I was in Florida, taking care of my mother who was recovering from pneumonia. My Mom is doing better (knock wood!) but the illness took its toll on her body and her psyche, and made her a sadder version of herself.
Even being home in Florida felt sad. Something about the contrast between the piercing blue skies and balmy weather and my mother's newly circumscribed days. The visits from nurses and physical therapists. The meals--carefully prepared but barely eaten. The soft boiled eggs and canned peaches and Ensure.
This visit was like a new, gray layer in a pentimento. The early layers are bright: Christmas with my parents, my sister, my husband, my uncles and aunts. Disney World with my sons. Lobster dinners on the water. Pilgrimages to the power plant where the manatees gather in cold weather. Boat tours on the Indian River. And then, six years ago, my father's illness and death.
Now the things that used to signify homecoming and vacation mean something a bit sadder. The Melbourne airport with its relentlessy cheery carpet and festive manatee statue.
The wall clock that chimes a different song on every hour. Even the weather--the tossing palm fronds, the sunshine, the blue, blue sky.
How can I not think of this magnificent poem by Philip Larkin?
Home is so Sad
Home is so sad. It stays as it was left, Shaped to the comfort of the last to go As if to win them back. Instead, bereft Of anyone to please, it withers so, Having no heart to put aside the theft And turn again to what it started as, A joyous shot at how things ought to be, Long fallen wide. You can see how it was: Look at the pictures and the cutlery. The music in the piano stool. That vase.