I was standing at my mom & dad's kitchen sink this afternoon, washing up the dishes I'd used to make a meatloaf for their dinner, when the smell of browning meat and simmering chili sauce bubbling from the oven carried me back to another time. To the same place, my parents' kitchen, but to a time when I was a child and my parents were young - and they were looking after me.
And the warmth of that scent memory flowed through me, slowing my breathing, relaxing my body.
I inhaled deeply, trying to pull more comfort from the air in my mother's kitchen. I looked out into the yard where I used to skate on rinks my mom flooded every winter, where my grandma shoveled paths in the deep snow, where I played in the sandbox and lay on a blanket in the sun listening to 45s on my sister's Mickey Mouse record player.
I remember my dad with black hair, taking steps two at a time. I remember my mom wallpapering the stairway, standing on homemade scaffolding without a trace of fear.
And now they are old. And I have woken up 1964 times without Thomas. And life is so different than it was, and every day I find myself sorting through some sort of grief. Sometimes newly realized, sometimes familiar and worn.
There are moments of peace and moments of despair. Moments of joy and moments of sorrow. Always, there is light and dark.
And that's the way it is. Right now, in this aching time as I watch my parents failing and I look into my future and see just a handful of us left and no one following behind; that's the way it is.
This, as it turns out, is what it means to be a grown up: feeling pain, but taking strength from lovely memories and finding moments of comfort in my mother's kitchen.