On the train to the station where my father waits I think of the tumor in his lung and I become acutely aware of the force of the air rushing by the train windows. As we drive through town talking of his upcoming surgery the gun factory smoke-stack pours white steam into the sky. As we pull in the driveway birds dive between feeders, porch rafters, and birdbaths – all the ornamentation that help their new single wide trailer project an aura of house-ness.
My mother wheezes through fixing dinner. Any activity brings on a quiet fight for breath due to her COPD scared lungs. This doesn’t stop her from joining my father for a cigarette on the porch. She says they are settling down here for good. He says they didn’t expect to be living in a trailer again but the place has potential. While he speaks he looks at the RV parked in the yard. They bought the RV to be an ambulatory retirement home but gas is too expensive.
I leave them talking quietly, coughing now and then. It occurs to me that a cough is more than air flow maintenance for the respiratory system – it’s the body’s attempt to insure that it remains not just a recipient of air but a participant in its elemental motion.
My father emerges from surgery on a wheeled bed attached to gurgling tubes and monitor cables. The tumor has been fully removed. There are no signs of lingering cancer. He has to remain here in bed for a few days however. Gaston Bachelard says we carry home with us no matter where we go or stay. We carry it as an essence of the cradle, the first house that protects and provides for the body. A hospital bed then, with its wheels and wires, is the most spider-like of cradles, the most skeletal of mobile homes. I say goodbye as he drifts into sleep beneath the monitoring web.
In the parking lot my mother smokes and waves sadly as I leave. A car takes me to the airport along a smooth curving road. The plane kicks up into the wide sky with a deep rumble of strong air.