The Tree Outside My Window

In the last years of my parents’ lives, they lived in a small apartment in a senior-living facility in a neighborhood that was short on natural beauty. To one side was a mobile home park; on the other was a townhouse development. Two blocks to the north was a six-lane highway bordered by huge office complexes. Yet between the townhouse development and the senior facility was a row of trees. Because this was the Midwest, they were oaks and maples mostly—broad and tall trees with many arching limbs.

My father, who was mostly confined to his apartment because of a stroke, was able to see one of the trees through a small corner window. Through spring, after he had the stroke, and into fall, he witnessed the rhythm of its life: in April, the first leafing out; in summer, when the tree was fully decked out and brimming with birds and sometimes cicadas; and into October when the maple was brilliant red.

It became his daily touchstone: seeing the tree in the early morning light when the rising sun brushed the top of its branches and in the late afternoon when the setting sun outlined every limb. From his favorite chair in the living room, he could admire developing thunderstorms and delight at how the wind shook the limbs and leaves. When I visited him, he would look at me and point to the tree, as if to say: look, out there is life and beauty, something wondrous.

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