Armen Bacon

The Long and Winding Road

Two gifts from friends: an autographed photo of Paul McCartney and a street sign that said “Long & Winding Rd.,” a reference to the song.
Two gifts from friends: an autographed photo of Paul McCartney and a street sign that said “Long & Winding Rd.,” a reference to the song. Special to The Bee

It’s finally here. The season I’ve been waiting for all year: autumn. It’s the month I rearrange closets, change comforters on beds, pull out the slow cooker, take inventory of my sweats, opt to stay in bed a little longer, then reach for a second cup of coffee.

“Heaven can wait,” as my dad used to say.

It is also the autumn of my life, a time both marked in bold and highlighted in yellow that every moment is precious, fragile, fleeting and worth celebrating.

I know this because although the leaves have started changing colors, many more than normal have fallen lately. In fewer than two weeks, I’ve attended three (Or is it four?) funerals. I’m losing count.

Thankfully, it has also been a season filled with abundance. I attended a 90th birthday celebration, a bridal shower, a birth and last weekend, a wedding.

Reaching for my pen, I write two words: “Achingly” and “Beautiful.” Because that’s what it is, right, this circle of life? The late playwright Jonathan Larson called it “Seasons of love.”

Whether sitting in a church pew saying farewell to a family friend or treasured colleague, applauding the life of my best friend’s mother who just turned 90 (and still swings a mean golf club), or embracing starry-eyed newlyweds about to begin the adventure of a lifetime, each milestone triggers a flood of emotions and memories.

Fall is the season for remembering, reminiscing, and reflecting.

Larry Salinas brought me a street sign carrying the title of McCartney’s famed song, “The Long and Winding Road,” a most fitting and succinct commentary on this season of life. At that moment, I realized we not only get by with a little help from our friends – but that there is healing power in breaking bread with friends, sharing a simple lunch laced with love and laughter.

Lately I’ve noticed myself quieter than normal, peaking inside myself, assessing the journey so far. Somewhere in my reading, I got the impression these were to be the best years. And they are, in so many ways. I’m past the stage of midlife crisis. No more pimples or peer pressure. But life seems layered, complex, each day filled with a new challenge or worry.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended Valley Children Hospital’s Harvest Ball, an inspiring evening raising money for sick kids living right here in in our own backyard. These are the children missing from soccer practice, invisible at the mall and grocery store, kids fighting for their lives.

More than 800 people came to support the hospital’s mission and lend a hand financially. The evening offered enormous hope and investment in the future. I was proud to be part of a caring community.

Last week a dear friend suffered a heart attack. He’s the kind of guy you meet and instantly adore. He works hard, plays harder, but has the kind of endless energy that sizes him up as someone who will live forever. Hearing the news that he was in the hospital was one of those wake-up calls and reminders that we never know what life is going to give us.

I keep telling myself, “You should know this by now,” but like everyone else, I think of myself frozen at 37 and unable to face my own mortality.

So when a group of friends, including a judge, lawyer, painter and lobbyist invited me to lunch a few days ago, I quickly and emphatically said yes, jumping at the chance, knowing the years of friendship and history (dating back to high school) would rejuvenate and refuel my wavering spirit. As the lobbyist would later note on Facebook, it turned out to be “a lunch of epic proportion.”

In addition to buoyant laughter and outrageous storytelling, our lunch included a surprise “appearance” by Sir Paul McCartney. Well, sort of. Readers might recall my disappointment in missing the Paul McCartney concert back in April due to an unexpected bout of pneumonia that leveled me for a few months.

Debbie Adishian-Astone, part of the leadership team at Fresno State, had apparently taken note. Although she wasn’t at lunch, her colleague, Larry Salinas, hand-delivered a framed picture of McCartney, taken the night of the Save Mart Center concert. He also brought a street sign carrying the title of McCartney’s famed song, “The Long and Winding Road,” a most fitting and succinct commentary on this season of life.

At that moment, I realized we not only get by with a little help from our friends – but that there is healing power in breaking bread with friends, sharing a simple lunch laced with love and laughter.

Yes, there’s a chill in the air. It’s autumn. A time to bundle up, hold on to each other, keep each other safe and warm. It’s also not a bad idea to whisper “I love you” to those who matter most. Get serious about finding your bliss. Reconnect with friends. In the blink of an eye, we’ll be wrapping ourselves in blankets and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Do your part to make sure it is.

Armen D. Bacon of Fresno is a writer and co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” and a collection of essays titled “My Name is Armen.” Connect with her at armenbacon@gmail.com,@ArmenBacon.

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