“Emily, my love, shall we walk?” I worried that her arthritis might be bad today, and that she might not be up to a stroll through the chilly morning fog. The autumn leaves were glorious, and the sharp smell of pumpkins rode the breeze.
“I’d like that,” she said.
Together, hand in hand, we began our slow and leisurely amble down the path. At our ages, that was the only speed we used. We would never see our 80’s again, but we enjoyed the park as much now as we ever had.
The journey we took started out as they always had, but for some reason, as we walked I felt strength returning to my limbs. By the time we had walked for five minutes, I was actually feeling better than I had in years. I looked over at Emily, and the expression on her face was almost as astonishing as her posture. She had stopped, was standing tall and had her shoulders back, her chin up.
“Em, are you okay? Is it your hip?” I couldn’t hide the concern in my voice.
“Harold…” She was staring off into the distance past me. “I feel fine. Better than fine, in fact, but Harold, look!” She nodded in the direction she was staring,
I followed her gaze to the trees slightly behind us, and it stopped me short as well. Back along the trail we had come down, the trees were golden, and the leaves were drifted among them in piles, but as they neared where we stood, they changed. The leaves on the branches of the nearest trees were green and healthy. The air had changed as well. The fog, which was still evident behind us, was gone here and the sun shone down in unmistakable summertime radiance. I could even smell a distant barbecue.
My face had gone slack, and my mind was still trying to grasp what I was seeing. Emily let go of my hand, and I watched in fascination as she took a half-dozen steps forward. With each step along the path, it seemed that her age just melted away from her. She stopped and looked back at me.
She was standing in a light rain, while the blossoms on the trees near her exploded in color. “Harold, Do you smell the grass? This is amazing!” She then stretched her arms over her head and spun a circle, coming to rest facing me with a smile I hadn’t seen in years, in a gorgeous and unlined face.
I started to walk toward her, but something stopped me. The park beyond where she stood, mere yards further down the path she was on, was covered in snow, and the trees there were bare and cold. Somehow, as crazy as it seemed, this trail was leading us backwards through the seasons.
I felt the first stirrings of fear then. The path lead on into the distance, and now the stripes of seasonal changes was obvious. Seeing my Emily, now looking like the young woman I had married almost 60 years earlier was sobering, and I was terrified that if I were to join her, I wouldn’t regress as she had. I was even more terrified that I would. What if we went too far? Would we become children? Infants? Then what … the specter of regression beyond the beginning was as scary as the thought of our eventual deaths, and I was unsure how to respond.
Her warmth, smile and love, as well as seeing her open hand reaching for me, decided it. I swallowed hard, closed my eyes, and took off toward her in a trot. We joined hands as I reached her, and together, we ran into whatever past awaited us.