Snow in Alabama

I was sitting to the right of Geof, enjoying an Over the Rhine concert that he'd talked me into attending, when I saw my silenced phone light up. The number implied Arkansas, and I had the familiar lump of dread that always came when a number starting with 501 showed up on caller ID.

It was my mother, and thanks to the ongoing performance, I had no way of answering it before the phone would go to voice mail. I watched, and waited, and saw no new voicemail notification pop up. No message.

When the musicians took a break, I called my mother back, and Geof was the only witness to the look on my face, whose look he told me later was quite priceless. The news? My mother's engagement.

Super Bowl Sunday, it had been; the question was simple and she said yes. In retrospect it was easy to see this coming; in the months prior she had been getting out more and doing more, and her life had all the hallmarks of someone who, after loss, was starting to live it again.

I called a few friends during the break and shared the news, mostly people who had met my father or those who had become especially close to me while my father was dying. It was right somehow that those people heard it first.

* * * * *

Shortly afterward, my mother sent me a photo of them together, formally dressed in matching outfits, in what my co-workers called with teasing affection the Senior Prom.

My mother was only in her mid-60s, and in the days of modern medicine and retirement accounts, that's potentially decades of living left to do. She had been unexpectedly widowed in her 50s, and the post-retirement life she'd mapped out disintegrated with a single diagnosis. Since that time, she had been in uncharted territory, the what-if that nobody wants to put much thought into: What if I am alone and you are not here? What do I do then?

My mother was a product of a different age: a responsible midlife purchase for my parents was a cemetery plot for two. Near her father, near her brother, and far sooner than she expected, near her first husband. When my father was buried her information-to-date was carved on the stone as well, indicating that her life had every intention of making this plot its final stop.

What do we do, I wondered, when modern life meets tradition in this manner, when you bought a shared headstone with one man and then years later got the courage to live the rest of your life with another?

* * * * *

The moral of the story, I suppose, is that life goes on regardless of whether or not we are witnesses to the tale, and I? I am wrapped up in a warm green blanket on the couch, Edmund's half-dozing eyes upon me, realizing that on this rare day of snowfall in Alabama, I'm preparing to buy airfare for my mother's wedding.