Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Long Ago It Must Be

It has been a year.

The human mind keeps an astonishingly good calendar.  You can argue all you want about the artificial division of time into arbitrary units and how this doesn’t reflect the nature of reality blah blah blah blah blah, but when significant anniversaries come around you just know.  You don’t have to ask.  You just know.

It doesn’t seem that long, really.  A blink of an eye.  A warm time, a cold time, a few rainstorms, not much snow.  You wake up, you go through the day, you go to sleep again, you do it all over the next day and the next and the one after that and after a while it all blends together.  You’d hardly know any time had passed at all if you didn’t stop to think about it.

Because life is a liquid, after all.  You take Something out of it, and there isn’t a Something-shaped hole left over to stare at or to put that Something back into, even if you could.  The days slosh inward and fill the space until you’d never know there had ever been any Something there in the first place, not from the surface, not if you don’t know the story.

Knowing the story makes all the difference.  It always does.

Once you know the story you understand just how immense the gap is between Then and Now.  How much time has actually passed by, silently, irretrievably, and how you can’t really go back to Then except in memory.  It’s all just Now.

Sounds.  I remember the sounds most of all, of conversation and laughter and connections stretched over far too much distance that never seemed stretched at all because there was so much to fill that distance with and make it seem like nothing at all, as if we stood side by side.  I remember so many things.  That is the thing about being a historian.  You remember.  It’s your job.  There’s a reason I ended up in this field.  It’s who I am.  You remember what was, and how it is no longer.

As you get older there are more of these memories, more of these calendar events that slow you down and make you think of people who once were part of your everyday life but are now stories for you to tell to yourself and to others, stories you make sure to tell to keep them with you just that much more, just that much longer.

The time piles up and the stories surround you, and eventually it will all fade away into the background of larger stories.  But I’m not a large story.  My story is only my own, and those I hold dear.  I will tell those stories and remember.

It has been a year.

It is strange to live in a world so changed.  I’m not sure that strangeness will ever go away.  I’m not sure I want it to.


LucyInDisguise said...

Found this on the 'net the other day. It's long, but, I think, may be an appropriate thought.

"Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.

As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."

I, too, miss your dad - and I never even had the chance to meet him.

bon chance votre vie, by friend.


David said...

Thanks, Lucy - I appreciate it. I think you and my dad would probably have gotten along well.

There are things in life you never get over, only get used to. Those are almost always because of something precious and lovely, and you'll take the hurt to have the memories of what came before.

I wear my scars proudly, because behind each of them is a story.