Friday, September 07, 2007
I just finished spending hours writing and recording a piece that will be integrated into a video my brother made as a memorial to my father.
On September 2nd, my family planted a tree in Dad's honor on his birthday and my brother filmed it. He's putting together a CD of the video and asked if I would write something to use as narration, so this morning I pulled out the letters Dad wrote me about his life growing up before and after his mother died in order to use his words. When I sent what I put together my brother said it was too long and he'd have to cut it down. Then I took a nap because I've been burning the candle at both ends lately and needed a rest; it was probably emotional exhaustion as well as physical and mental exhaustion, but the nap did me good. When I woke up I knew what I needed to write and how to put it together. It took me several tries but I finally recorded a narration that sounded as good as it looked on paper. My brother just wrote back and said he cried listening to it. I didn't cry recording it but the tears are hovering on the edge of my mind like a promised storm and I know they will come sooner rather than later. At least I have the memories my father left; that is something to hang onto.
Memory is a tricky thing. We tend to color the happy moments brighter and the bad times we view from a safe distance as though through a lens covered with Vaseline and gauze: watery, faint and far less painful than when we lived them. It's human nature to look fondly on the past and see it as better than it was: brighter, golden, happier. Sometimes we're right and things were better and sometimes memory is unreliable. Even those memories we hold close, the dark and painful times that scored and scarred our minds and souls, are not quite as we remember them. The villains are more evil, the emotions more powerful, the intentions black and white and easy to understand when in fact they are more of a watery gray that occasionally shades into charcoal. Powerful emotions leave powerful memories and we work them like worry stones, deepening and softening the lines of reality so we can bear the past and the scars we carry.
We forget all the times we have failed someone, all the times we have let them down. Instead we remember our reasons or forget the incidents altogether in order to move on with our lives. Chance remarks we took as criticisms or deliberate knife thrusts to someone else's heart are lost in the ever changing kaleidoscope of time and distance and we are left with regret, stumbling over what if and if only as though they were water-filled potholes in the middle of the road at the darkest hour of the night when our headlights fail. Most of the time we move on and keep living, keep breathing, keep making mistakes and finding happiness and despair in every moment. That's life.
I am usually reluctant to move on but when I do I leave everything behind, glancing back over my shoulder less and less as life pulls me forward. In the long dark nights when I'm alone in my bed or when I'm writing some piece of my life that will be published or used, I relive those poignant moments and thank the god/dess that I have been privileged to know even a few moments of happiness as I lived in interesting times. It isn't always easy and there will always be things -- and people -- I regret leaving behind or walking away from, but no matter how long they stay away or how soon it seems they are forgotten, they come with me as I move through life and I sometimes look back at them and wish they could share the changing moments and experiences here and now. I live with the hope they will push through the mazes and thorny hedges that separate us and join me down the road, the past a hazy, watery dream colored with fond memories, the pain and disappointments and regrets forgotten. But there are some who won't join me; my father is one of them.
They planted a tree on Dad's birthday in honor of his memory and it will grow and flourish above the bench where my family will take turns sitting and remembering him. I will see the tree in the video and my family will send pictures as it grows. I don't really need them to remember my father. I have his letters and his words and a treasure trove of memories. He no longer walks this earth, but he will always walk the halls of memory and alongside me in spirit as I keep living and working, writing and remembering not what I've lost but what he planted inside of me that will continue to flourish and grow.