Friday, January 25

Still there... by Liz Flaherty

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ― John Banville


The writing prompt for our last writers' group meeting was to write about memories. This was easy for me. because when you write essays, which I do weekly in a column—especially if you purposefully veer away from politics and religion—the chosen subject tends to come from your memory bank. If you’re old enough to remember Martin Luther King’s birthday and you also recall the day he made the “I have a dream” speech and the day he died, that means that particular bank has a lot of deposits.
          What is sad, and growing increasingly more so as the gray in my roots grows whiter and the crows’ feet around my eyes grow deeper, is that the bank’s ledger sheet also shows a shocking number of withdrawals.
          And I swear I didn’t sign for any of them.
          My brother got sick in February of last year. The siblings spent a lot of time together during his hospitalization and subsequent stay in a long-term care facility. We laughed a lot. Cried some. We reminisced, the five of us, crowding his room. We all grew up in the same house, with the same parents, born over a 14-year span of time so that the memories overlapped.
          Overlapped, maybe, but none of them matched.
          None.
          But they would all have moments in common, times of synchronicity when we all laughed at the same time and at the same thing.
          It makes me think of when some people talk about their dreams, the ones that belong on bestseller lists, if you were to judge by their length and story quality. They all make sense and have deep meanings. My dreams are usually ragged moments of nonsense that disturb my sleep but mean nothing deeper than I probably need to get up and go to the bathroom. I think dreams actually happen in the bladder, not the mind.
          But dreams aside, I believe most of the best memories are moments out of time. Stars in what might otherwise seem like darkness. I remember, as a very young kid, looking through the bars of the post office window at Mr. Sausaman in Akron and thinking that was a job I’d like to have. I remember, from always, checking books out and into the library and thinking I wanted to do that. I wanted to work with books, with neat little slips of paper and rubber stamps and cards all in a row. I remember reading Little Women, about Jo March sitting in the garret writing stories and that was what I wanted to do, sit by myself and write stories.
          Did I say “dreams aside?” I didn’t mean it, because the best memories and the best dreams are together things, things that intertwine and support each other. That was what mine did, as I worked at the post office, at the library, and have spent years writing stories.
          But this isn’t at all what I was going to talk about, was it? Except that it is. While it’s true your memory ends up with great, gaping holes in it as you age, and the things you remember never seem to stack up beside what those nearest and dearest to you can call up with snap of their fingers, you will always have those moments. Ones that make you laugh when there’s no visible reason, that make you weep when you’re sharing them, that give you stories in your heart.
You don’t grow old without having lost—it’s just the way life is. But before you lost, you had. While everyone can read the words of Dr. King and understand them, it’s different if you were there. While the grief of losing my brother is still a heavy and dark thing, I will always have the growing up with him. And while memories are leaving me faster than I can grab hold and keep them, the moments are there. Still there.

10 comments:

  1. Great post, Lizzie! I was struck at your interweaving of dreams and memories--so very true. And funny, even with all the times we've talked about my city growing up and your country one, so many of our memories are exactly the same! Hugs!

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    1. It's amazing how alike are likenesses and how different the differences are, isn't it? And how they interweave...

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  2. You don’t grow old without having lost—it’s just the way life is. <-- if feel like this is the beginning of a book you should write! :D

    Love this post, Liz. At Thanksgiving, all my siblings were together at my Mom's and we talked and laughed and remembered...it's funny what I remember that they don't (and vice versa). But I think what I'll remember the most from this trip is just the laughter and it won't matter if it was my story or another's memory...it will just be the laughter and the being together.

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    1. Oh, yes, absolutely. I can still cry over the memories we had while my brother was ill, but I wouldn't give any of them up. And I think you're right about that line. Thank you!

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  3. This post was so poignant. Memories might fade, but love always lingers. Once grief passes, I try to focus on celebrating my loved ones' lives and the joys they brought me.

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    1. Me, too, although I fail at it sometimes. Thanks, Judy!

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  4. I love this - so on point. You are amazing!

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  5. Lovely post, Liz. I only have one brother and he's seven years older than me so we never seem to have the same memories about anything!

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