Friday, July 20, 2007

The Call of the Past

People leave. They move away, they retreat emotionally, they leave us, they die. It's part of life.

When someone leaves you, all you have left is what you remember. There are the happy memories, where life was liquid and lovely and you were unselfconsciously a part of things, where you did the right things. There are niggling memories where you were angry or frustrated but did the right thing anyway. There are the bad memories where there was nothing you could do but watch everything go wrong, and finally, the memories where you were at fault and there's no way to change it now.

I've been dreaming about my father. It's been 4 months since he died. I see him, sometimes, the way he was 25 years ago, hale and hearty, not yet humbled by disease and disgust with his body. But I dreamt about him dying again the other night and awakened in the midst of the loss and terror I felt at his dying. My heart was slamming in my chest. I was short of breath, tears in my eyes. Oh what a horrible nightm.... oh...

The dream was a surprise because I feel like I've been dealing with his departure rather well lately. I've been thinking of his life as a book: beautifully bound, lovely illustrations, gold-edged pages, exquisite typeface. I think of his sharp wit, great mind, sharper tongue and I laugh. I miss him. I see, over and over, the back cover of the book slowly closing. I think, then, that I will never be able to open that book again. I will see him only in my mind, only through the dim light of memory.

The past has been calling to me and I've answered...wandering through the houses we lived in, the talks we had, the effort I made to connect then and throughout my life with him. The tape of his last months plays in my head, a bittersweet loop of how I tried to help him and how he resigned himself to leaving.

The past can be a vacation from the present, a time before loss. As much time as I've been spending in it, I'll have to make sure I don't get caught there.