After Labor Day

corn field 1

Most of the way the highway is bordered by expanses of corn, slowly rolling fulvous fields ready for harvest after scorching weeks of no rain, an endless tinder landscape just waiting for a flame to transform itself into an avalanche of popcorn. A cruise-control drive into the sunset. I am headed home after a visit to my wife’s nursing home in Hancock County, a dry county here in bourbon country. In the back seat, along with my walker, is Connie Sue’s weekly laundry for me to wash.

Back over the line in Daviess County, I have two stops to make—the drive-thru liquor store for my week’s supply of bourbon and ale and the drive-thru drug store for one of my exorbitant (the price of two-week’s alcohol) prescriptions. Staying alive past your allotted years in America does not come cheap.

When we were young, Labor Day always meant going back to school, sort of the ultimate Sunday-night of holidays, hardly a holiday at all—the end of your days off, no more baseball. For Connie summers meant long bike rides with a girlfriend into the countryside—this countryside before everything was corn—and the indolence of nothing to do but daydream. Remember the indulgence of childhood boredom? What a gift that was. No worries beside getting home before the streetlights came on.

Now Labor Day semaphores lurking autumn and its ugly brother winter, long early and empty dusks, heating bills replacing cooling bills, uncertain footing, slush. Both Connie and I were autumn babies. Our first months were winter. Summer would have been a surprise—the shedding of clothes, sun on skin. November’s child is meek and mild; come July she will be wild.

Who would have thought, when you got this far, that the importance of all that preceded would get lost? Would become almost laughable, meaningless? Promotions forgotten, books out of print, offspring so fine they don’t need to call. What matters now is just today, its small comforts, pain pills, naps, routines. It’s sort of like summer when we were kids. Then we had the present but no past to distract us. Now we have the present but no future to concern us. Just today and the whole world to ignore us.

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