I don't do sick well.
During this, the third-to-last weekend of my beloved bungalow summer, I have been in what I hope is the last act of a mysterious illness that came upon me without warning and wracked my body with fever, weakness and strange aches. Though I felt optimistic on the ride up to Monroe on Friday -- a multi-leg journey which included a stop at La Guardia airport to pick up Little Babe, who just arrived back home from visiting his girlfriend in Birmingham, Ala -- my temperature rose upon our arrival, demoralizing me.
Tired, emotionally labile, headachy and listless, I spent Shabbat overcome by a deep sorrow that my favorite season is almost over and I hardly even had a chance to inhabit it. Arriving, as it did, at the end of a busy summer, it was hard for me not to feel persecuted by this unwelcome illness.
Adopting the mantra of kids everywhere, it just wasn't fair.
Though I felt unwell, Shabbat had its moments of grace -- a tranquil hour spent reading outside the bungalow, the sunlight jewel-like, the air sweet and clean; a visit to the shore of Walton Lake, the view of the mirror-like water, the reassuring sensation of being nestled in the bosom of Mother Nature, the privilege of hanging out with Little Babe as he played guitar, singing the songs of Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, Coldplay, Pink Floyd and, of course, The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Resting on a humid mattress inches from my 17-year-old son, I was stirred, as I always am, by his soulfulness and artistry. Though I had been crying earlier, I felt uplifted and reassured hearing Little Babe's sweet voice and confident command of the music. Some of his favorite songs are my own -- "Wish You Were Here," "Homeward Bound,""Norwegian Wood" -- and some I have come to love through my son's renditions -- "Green Eyes," "Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.," "Brendan's Death Song."
I remembered this moment last year when "I'm With You," the Peppers' new album, was just being released, our shared excitement as we discovered each new song. I remember hatching the plan to go see them perform, which we did, this past April in Greensboro, NC, on the fourth night of Passover.
Recalling our trip, recalling this very moment last summer, tears filled my eyes once again.
Exuberant by nature, I am also given to a certain melancholy and suffer from sentimentalism.
And when I get sick, it is an easy slide from sentimental into the home base of maudlin.
So there were maudlin moments aplenty, crying jags and a feeling akin to regret. There was palpable loss. I had wanted this to be a different kind of summer -- rich with friends and exploration and Sunday adventures and culture and time to write -- and of course, there was some of that, for there were weddings and times with friends and the birthdays of our three children, and some enchanted summer days with HOBB and an extended visit from SOBB (Sister of Bungalow Babe) and a short visit from Big Babe and the absolute, over-the-top joy of watching Little Babe perform at the day-long end-of-summer performance at the remarkable BIMA program at Brandeis and seeing him with his arm around his girlfriend, happy and complete.
At the end of this summer, I note that my three children are happily coupled.
That is no small blessing.
There were moments of splendor and now I mine them for reassurance that I inhabited the magic kingdom of summer even ever so briefly. There were moments but I wanted hours, days, a solid season of splendor.
I am greedy with want.
It is now noon on the third to last Sunday of the summer. We have friends coming in a few hours. I am shaky but fever-free. The air is cooler and the sun patterns on the lawn are classically Augustine. In the blink of an eye I've crossed over the midpoint of the month into that final back-to-school stretch. I cannot believe it.
I have been very lucky, I suppose, if I am complaining so bitterly about a disappointing summer, experienced once, a quarter of a year away from my 52nd birthday.
Perhaps I am even spoiled.
Yet I know I am not alone in perceiving the melancholy of the woods outside my bungalow porch on a Sunday in August.
The sadness is inherent in the soulful swaying of the trees to the maudlin, late summer music, all but inaudible to human ears.