I have sat by you for most of your life. I have loved you for even longer.
When you were first born, it was winter. As the season passed, you grew into your rosy cheeks and big brown eyes. When you couldn’t sleep, your mother would carry you from window to window, and your eyes would widen, amazed at the world outside your own. You would often smile when you would see me, bathed in the moonlight, but my memory may be tainting the truth. You likely were crying or sleeping just as often as you would smile at me in those days, but I would like to believe that perhaps I made you smile a little more.
As the seasons passed, you grew from a wide-eyed baby to an even wider-eyed toddler. Every day that the weather was fair, one of your parents would bring you across the yard to spend time with me. Beside me, you would sit, often with your mother, sometimes with your father, until you grew old enough to come and visit me on your own. We didn’t even need to speak. You would play or read, and I would be there for you to lean on.
You grew quickly, too quickly for me. At my current age, and even then, my growth was slow, and it’s hard for me to remember what it’s like to change so rapidly from day to day, or even year to year. You grew from a small child to a slightly larger child. And then, before it seemed possible, you became someone who would soon become an adult. I will admit, this was hard on me.
I was there when you first smiled, when you spoke your first word. I did my best to comfort you when you were sad or angry. from the first wobbly notes of a beginner to the greater confidence and clarity that came with practice.
I was beside you when you buried the dog you grew up with; it was your first experience with death, but it never got any easier. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. You sat beside me and cried until your parents called you inside to go to bed, and, even then, you sat beside me for another hour. You told me about your first heartbreak, introduced me to your friends. I was a part of your world, and you were all of mine.
Until, one day, you stopped coming to visit me.
It wasn’t necessarily unusual for you to miss a few days of visits; you were busy in your world of young adulthood, but you still tried to come and see me at least once a week.
The evening before, there had been yelling. As the sun set, the yelling became louder and louder, until all was silent. You left in an unfamiliar car just as the last bit of light was fading from the west.
It’s so hard to realize a drought when it first happens. At first, one does not have to try to think that the rain must be right around the corner. It’s hard to realize until the grass becomes brittle, until the air becomes chalky, until you realize that all you want to pray for is something you had taken for granted for so long.
I didn’t see you for months. Maybe even years. You didn’t visit me. I didn’t know why. Something happened in that house that night, but I couldn’t begin to understand. I don’t think I ever will.
I mourned in my own way. There was no way for me to know why you had left or when you were coming back. Your father and mother were still around, but they rarely came over to see me. However, some mornings they would look out their kitchen window, over me to where the dawn was breaking.
Many more nights were filled with yelling. Not with you of course, but between your mother and father. Anger and grief emanated from the house that was once yours, and I too began to absorb some of those feelings as well, without even knowing how or why.
Every time I saw your mother or father come home, I tensed. The atmosphere of their relationship had changed as had their relationship itself. To me, it now became only a structure in which you weren’t there. Those were the worst days. You were all to me, and without you, I slowly withered to nothing.
Gradually, the atmosphere around the house began to change once again. It was subtle and slow, but the strained atmosphere began to lift. This, however, did not bring me out of my despair. The anger had left, but the grief was still ever so present and only grew as the days passed.
Then, one mild winter day, much like the one on which you were born, that familiar unfamiliar car came up the driveway, and you emerged from it.
You looked different, older, more weathered, but also, somehow, you looked more yourself. Your hair was longer, and your clothes were different from anything I had ever seen you wear before; they resembled your mother’s. But you seemed the most “you” that you had ever been.
You held the hand of a girl I didn’t completely remember, but I felt like I knew. I felt that you had told me about her, her eyes, her kindness, her essentialness to you. Or maybe that is just what I saw when she held your hand; I don’t know. My memories are not always clear.
You walked into the house, and, I have to admit, it hurt to see you go there first, even though I knew that you must. Some time passed, and the voices remained low, but I was nervous. After all, there are other ways that words can injure.
And then, after a while, you came out of the house with the girl and made your way towards me. The two of you sat beside me, and I became acquainted with this person for which you had so much love. I liked her immediately; the way she looked at you told me all I needed to know. In addition, she seemed to know a great deal about me, which brought me much joy. I was important to you, and I could see that made me important to her as well.
Eventually, you walked back, still hand in hand, to the house. When it began to get dark, the two of you walked to the car and drove away. I cannot lie; when you left, again I felt as if I was losing a limb. I had no way of knowing when you would be back.
But then, after a week or two, that now familiar car came back. With you inside it.
You visited about once a month after that. Sometimes with the girl, sometimes not. But still, knowing that you would come back brought a sense of purpose back to me, a desire to grow into myself, as I had seen you do.
Eventually, you and the girl came back to live in the house you had grown up in. Shortly after, your father died in that house. You sat beside me often after that; it was summer, and the air was warm.
And a few years later, after a sense of normalcy was regained, it was shattered again. But this time, it was shattered in the most beautiful way.
You and that girl became parents. Unlike your mother, you did not grow a big belly, and neither did the woman you love. But that didn’t matter, you both loved the baby all the same. You brought him home on a day in early spring. He couldn’t quite walk yet, but he was able to crawl and soon was toddling around.
When the weather was warm, you would bring him out to see me, and soon, another child came, this one even younger than the first when she was brought home.
They seemed to grow even faster than you did. I know that is impossible, but feelings often seem impossible, don’t they? That’s why they are there. It does no good to be given the actuality of a situation all of the time.
And you, too, grew older. I saw you age as your mother and father had done, and your children age as you had done. However, this time, there was no abscondment. There were arguments and tears of course, but I never feared that someone would leave and never return.
You are quite old now. You still have a strong bond with your wife and children. And now, also with their children. They will all miss you when you are gone. So, too, will I. Your life may be ending, but that doesn’t mean my love ever will.
Here you come, in all your you-ness. You sit next to me, breathing quietly, and together we sit in silence.
I am glad that you are sitting beside me for your last moments. I think we both know it is coming. I am glad that I am here for you to lean against my trunk, to shelter you with my leaves, to exist in your life.
I’m glad you are home.