Wisconsin still smells like cedar, even though my dad is sick.
Mom still drives home slow from the airport. She still wants to hear every story told from the beginning, and prompts me--like she always does--by saying, "So, you got up. You got on the plane...." But she also says new things, like, "We are not telling Grandma." We are not telling anyone, I find out, because the cancer is Dad's news to tell.
Dad is not home when I get there, so for a minute I don't know whether seeing him will be the same (like the drive) or different (like the new rules about telling). Then he arrives and I see it is both. He has written my boyfriend's name on his hand. He refers to it three times while introductions are being made, laughing loudest at his own joke. He breaks the ice by seeming well and vital. It is wonderful; I cry right away out of relief, out of the realization that I am lucky to have this moment. And this--this new sense of our time together--is the difference.