Ralph and I had one of our increasingly infrequent genuine conversations last night. He was sitting in the porch rocker as usual and I had come out to tell him that I had finally found the courage to warn Manuel that we’ll be moving and have to let him go in the next months. He has worked for us for over 20 years, first as a maintenance man at our apartment management business in Atlanta, then for ten years on the farm. Although we are not moving for awhile, I don’t want to wait until the last minute and leave him in the lurch. But letting him know we are going seems like a defining moment.
You know I’ve never lived anywhere in my life as long as we have out here, Ralph mused as I sat with him. This is going to be a life changing move.
Yes it is, I agreed and meant it.
It will be hard to give up this view. He gestured at the trees, the pasture, the pond. A leafy green and blue postcard picture of rural life.
Yes it willI agreed and meant it.
The truth is that lately I have been feeling like an observer as I go through the motions of handling the various details of our life. Not only watching over Ralph, stepping in to do actual care-giving as necessary—lately for instance, I’ve noticed his worrisome new tendency to skip showering and changing clothes, an issue I’ll explore more at some other time—but also as I go about my own life roaming real estate sites on the internet for a house to buy, going through closets to start winnowing out belongings we don’t need to move with us , focusing hard on what’s left of our business to be as financially ready to move as possible. Is that the same woman who just accepted an invitation to a party of new friends. Should she/I be bothering under the circumstances? But I do attend the party and enjoy my friends with if anything new intensity. because the idea of moving feels slightly unreal. Unreal, it occurs to me, the same way Ralph’s diagnosis felt to me in the beginning. (I remember we were together in car on some trip, him at the wheel of course as he always used to be, and we began joking about a future when I would have to drive him. Was I at all aware how soon that day would come?)
Sitting on the porch with Ralph at sunset it was hard to imagine leaving. Were we really going to upend our current stability, static yet shaky as it may be?
Of course, Ralph said interrupting my thoughts, when I think about the farm these days I’m mostly remembering stuff I don’t do anymore. Duck hunting, raising cattle.
True. I agreed.
So I went into the house and got my phone.
What’s this? Ralph asked as I hit play on the video of him singing Alouette with BabyRalph.
What you get in exchange for giving up the view, I said.
Of course he doesn’t remember the conversation or the video this morning, but that’s okay. I was reminding myself at least as much as him.