Fall weather comes to South Texas all of a sudden and late in the season, with a cold front from the north that we Texans call a norther. A norther blew in this week, with temperatures dropping form the 90s into the 50s virtually overnight. The few deciduous trees that grow here won’t drop their leaves until much later, so the small dust devils that erupt from the winds swirl only dust and debris in tantrums of defiant protest against those who resent them, like me, for not swirling the brilliant colors of fallen leaves found in other ares of the country. With the change to Central Standard Time and the sun now sitting lower in the sky, these days of late autumn in South Texas take on a “twilighty” feel, a grayish cast that slows the mood and portends the dark days of winter to come.
In literature study, when the natural setting mirrors the mood of the characters and the events of the plot, it is called “sympathetic nature.” And so it is now, I think, in real life here for us. We have entered the twilight of this season, and maybe of my Mother’s life, and certainly the setting reflects my mood and hers. It’s okay; we have talked; we’re good with all this. But as is so often the case in literature and in life, things have proven to be not quite as expected, not quite as they seem.
As originally planned, I went down to get my Mother and move her up to the assisted living place I had arranged, and decorated, in late October. The day I arrived, however, she had another stroke, which precipitated another hospital stay, which precipitated yet another facility decision, or range of decisions, upon her release. She could no longer navigate the assisted living facility I had previously arranged, nor could she return to the nursing/rehab center from which she had come. Panic. I had closed on her house the morning of her release! Best-laid plans thwarted once again. In a forced decision, I had her discharged to a memory care home in Victoria, knowing that it wouldn’t be a permanent solution, but not having much choice at the moment. The first night there she fell. And so it went…
Ultimately, after frenzied phone calls and kind interventions from Hospice and residential health professionals with connections, I finally picked my Mother up, put her in my car, and drove her up here myself to a lovely, new memory care home in San Antonio. She is happy, or so she says, to be in a permanent situation and happy to be close to her family. And so we are, at last, the both of us, out of Victoria for good. We have survived it all, including the hurricane, we have recovered (sort of), and we have relocated and begun a new chapter. My Mother is, understandably, a bit sad, but resigned; I am now in something of a “twilight sleep” myself, being terribly sleep deprived, but also relieved that the decisions have been made and that there is simply nothing else to be done.
I have managed to use some of the pretty things I had purchased a while back with which to decorate her assister-living suite — a coverlet and sham and matching window valences, a petite lady’s electric recliner, matching sheets and towels — but many things have had to be returned because her room is smaller and the hospital equipment, oxygen, wheelchair, bath bench, special bed and such, take up space. Even so, the room is comfortable and we have set out family photos and brought in some of her favorite keepsakes. “Is this place permanent?” she asks me when we arrive.
“Yes,” I say. “This is your new home.”
Twilight time is perhaps a melancholy time, but oddly, it has always been my favorite time of day. After a long, exhausting schedule of work, chores, errands and obligations, the early evening hours offer a late-day respite, a wine-time break, some moments to reflect on the accomplishments of the day and in which to contemplate what may lay ahead. Yes, as the Platters sang so long ago, the “heavenly shades of night are falling” and the uncertainties of tomorrow await the dawn, but there is time now for rest and recuperation, however brief, in the interlude.
It’s “Twilight Time.”