“I have a good memory, it’s just a short”. Daddy wasn’t the first one I heard say that, but he was the funniest when he said it. I think he was right about memory, though. We can only hang on to so much data.
Here she goes again
I have some fleeting memories of Christmas as a kid, but the thing that sticks out the most is perpetually asking for a horse (not a pony) every year. I think Mom and Daddy would agree I’d get an A for perseverance. Every Christmas it was my mantra. Drove-them-crazy. Never mind we lived smack in the middle of Chicago. Never mind we were breathing paycheck to paycheck on a cop’s salary in those days. Daddy had a second job on the side and paid under the table. They called it “moonlighting” back then.
By no stretch was it a substitute, but what I did do was take two city busses as far as they would go and then use a pay phone to call one of the stable guys for a ride the rest of the way just to hang out at a stable on the outskirts of the city. I’d clean fifty bridles or so to earn riding lessons. The way I saw it, my parents could just buy me a horse and board it there. I may as well have been asking for the moon.
The next best thing – dreaming & wishing
What I did get, though, was quite an extensive collection of horse statues and horse books. That would shut me up for a while. And just so I could be sure to get the ones I wanted; I provided a list for interested gift givers. I was leaving nothing to chance, especially if I was collecting for something that was in a series. At least I was easy to buy for.
From there it gets fuzzy
But even strong memories dim with time. We file them away in some cavernous inner file cabinet and eventually we forget where we put the key. Down the line, depending on how funny, how warm it made us feel, or how traumatic and painful it was, or any number of sparks that ignites us, we haul out bits and pieces and evoke those memories again.
Here’s the deal with memories. We make them, yes, but they also get passed down to us, generation by generation. Although, with each hand off they get a little fainter. Until, one day, they are completely wiped out. Names are forgotten. Dates have us scratching our heads and gazing up at the ceiling as if there’s a mysterious file card that might appear to help fill in the blanks.
Threads & remnants
What is left is the sensation or the principle behind the memory. Painful ones dig deep etches that leave scars. Happy ones, bittersweet ones, they snatch my breath, catching me off guard.
Grammy went through so much loss growing up. It was drummed into her head – wash your hands, sneeze or cough into your arm if you don’t have a handkerchief! She was militant about this. I can hear the urgency in her voice, still. I can see her eyes turn steely as she barks out the reminders. Germs scared her. And look how that memory sticks with me after all these years.
Eventually, the stories she retold started to flicker. She’d be in the middle of a story and raise her eyes to the ceiling trying to recall a name, or a house, or a date. And now I do the same thing.
In who’s world
We expected nothing to change. Of course it all has to change. I’ve changed. It’s what we do – we change. We change and we inch our way forward just a little further, crawling on our bellies until we hit another rough patch. And then the whole thing goes down the crapper again and we’re back at the drawing board. It’s what we do.
Only this time, we’re so loud all over the place. We are shrieking our aggravations, shouting ultimatums and roaring thunderous taunts. We can hear each other loud and clear like never before. All over the world the screech is deafening at times. Humans are not categorized as apex predators because of our diverse diet. But I think that definition might need a second look.
Just look how smart we are
Hackers have the ability to watch someone sneeze through the Google security device in their bedroom in Tehran. I watch a volcano continue its eruption in my beloved Canary Islands. As smart as we are it still appears we are collectively pissed off af.
And even though the word accelerated doesn’t come close to the speed by which we can connect, somehow, I can’t hold a phone signal driving down Highway 10.
It is a part of our DNA
Deep down, though, we know struggle. Our kin have known struggle. Every Homo sapien on the planet has known times of struggle. And those times get passed along to us and settle inside every cell of our body.
Truth is, like grief, struggle cannot be compared. Your suffering is your suffering. My suffering is my suffering. I cannot know the depth of your brokenness.
I’ve adjusted all my dreams for something slow
And it’s a softening that age has taught me well
For the things I cannot change I must let go And darling it’s inspired
What a struggle can do
Under water over fire
It’s got nothing on you
I might be wounded
I might be tired
But that much is true – Boy & Bear
It is a softening
We had a discussion in the barn a few days ago about aging gracefully. What did that look like? You know the craziest things will stick in my head. My memory did not go to anyone in my family or friend circle as I thought it would have. It immediately went to an elderly couple I met when working in an ECC hospital.
An encounter of the highest kind
They had a dog that had surgery and I was to do the discharge. As they walked in the building, I saw their mobility was so difficult. Each with a cane in one hand and, the free arm locked with the other one, they held each other up. But they were both smiling, pleasant and as peaceful looking as I’ve ever seen. It felt like they were glowing and their aura instantly grabbed me.
That was around twenty years ago. I never saw this angelic couple again after that encounter, but they must have been holding some powerful mojo. Grace.
So, the roadmap to aging gracefully might be much less complicated than I originally thought. And that’s where we took up the next part of the conversation in the barn.