Fall was coming as the steam of the first frost made a cloak of grey across the Inn’s lawn. Autumn was my favourite season; with apple-snap breezes and oranged-leaved air. I arrived in River Edge on a wintery day, at the hesitant request of Sarafina, the wife of an old friend, Gavin. Months before, a nasty fall had broken his body and his mind. An exasperated Sarafina (she never liked me) said, “He keeps asking for you. Can you come.” He thought his wife, dubbed pretty pixie, was an over-attentive nurse, yet instantly recognized me.
Sarafina, moved back into her world and her life. Pretty Pixie would visit, but not do the grunt work. You hired professionals for that. I wasn’t a professional, but to Sarafina’s chagrin, I stayed. As a volunteer, I was cheer leader for team Gavin. I watched him sweat and swear to bring a spoonful of ice cream to his mouth, to read the words in a children’s book, do hours of rehab on equipment designed to stretch this or rotate that. I got t-shirts and ball caps (sponsored by a sports store) “Team Gavin.”
Meanwhile the extensive renovations to their Victorian house were going well. A room had been added for Gavin’s rehab equipment, ramps installed, cocooning him into another Sarafina success. She still thought that within months, Gavin would change like the seasons; slide down the banister, surprise her with flowers and a Pandora bracelet, sweep her off to a weekend resort. That impish, expansive Gavin was gone; Sarafina seemed to think otherwise.
“Hey Jemmy, trees changing soon,” came Gavin’s voice from behind me. Rolling in his hot rod wheels, (sleek, ultramodern wheelchair) Sarafina riding shot gun, they made an impressive pair. “Taking you to lunch,” Gavin explained. Sarafina noted I might want to change my clothes. Mostly to irritate her, and because I loved it, I wore my beautiful hand-woven sweater in all shades autumn over a long black skirt and boots. Made sure to wear the funky earrings Gavin gave me 5 years ago during our ships passing week before I left for the West Coast.
Subtle signs of change: cooler nights; sky fading to watery winter blue; geese on the wing. Down East, moose rutting under trees as crimson as passion. Gavin would be home in time for their 6th anniversary. Team Gavin was now Team Sarafina and the trainers and tutors she hired. Conversation was jerky, like Gavin’s movements as he went to take Sarafina’s hand in his. “Home for anniversary,” he said, winking at me. I’d spent hours going over wedding material and other artifacts of his missing life with him. “Sixth anniversary with pretty pixie.” He winked again.
Seasons turning; wind shifting. My time to shift too. Gavin, I realized would always need his troll of a Jemmy – pretty pixies are a puff of gossamer air, trolls are made of more solid stuff. So this troll bought the present day equivalent of Garvin’s Greyhound $99 Round the Country Trip Ticket. Starting up North (or Down East as they say in Maine), I’d follow the colours south, towards the autumnal equinox. The trip aided by the check Sarafina had slipped in my purse at lunch. I like to think it was a thank you, not a bribe.
I settled into my seat, watching River Edge disappear. Gavin had my cell phone number and I was sure some day he would use it.