Fall has arrived in Vermont. My hair is straight from the lack of humidity. The leaves covering our lawn are crunchy and colorful. Last year about this time, I gathered up a vibrant selection of Fall leaves, laminated them, and sent them to Beau. They were passed around the residents of Juniper Memory Care before Beau buried this treasure in the back of his top drawer.
Later that year, Beau painted the accompanying picture that he entitled, “Camping in the Fall.” I imagine that he was remembering Fall days in Virginia when he’d pack up his canoe and head down the Rivanna River for an overnight trip. His dog Fred would come along for the ride. They’d make a fire near the small dam just before the bridge in Columbia. Beau would have a tomato sandwich and give Fred the crusts. Between the sounds of the water breaking over the rocks and the fire’s twigs crackling, Beau and Fred would soon fall sound asleep. The moon spotlighting them and their unwritten future.
Those Fall canoe trips eventually saw their last day and gave way to new seasons of life. Schools to attend. Wars to fight. Children to raise. Patients to cure. Africa to see. The farm to sell. Grandchildren to welcome.
Sadly, in Beau’s case, life ultimately hurdled into the unstoppable, unforgiving, permanent winter of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet still, in the midst of that bleak place, even months before his death, my father’s brain managed to cling to an image of Fall.
NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
–By Robert Frost
On Sunday, I will participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s here in Vermont. Colorful leaves crunching underfoot on the very same path I took two Fall seasons ago when Beau was still alive. The view from this “memory lane” offers glimpses of Lake Champlain between the vibrant trees. The effect will be like walking through the contents of my father’s mind.
I am grateful for the golden time I had with Beau Bercaw. Made all the more valuable because nothing gold can stay.