Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time to remember

Sometimes, it is healthy and necessary to set aside some time to remember.  To remember good times and hardships.  To remember what we have done that we shouldn't have as well as to embrace our own triumphs. It takes time and space to develop perspective.

July tends to be a hectic point in the year here.  It is a month of birthdays (mine, my mother-in-law's, several friends, grandmother...), a month of events (work events fro my husband, family reunions, parties, holidays), and the month when my father-in-law died.  I can't say we got along terribly well, because I didn't put up with his crap.  We had an understanding, though.  His son, my husband, is terribly important to me, as are my children, and I would not tolerate any bull in that department.  When he was sober, I found him to be intelligent and funny, with a rather sarcastic sense of humor and a gift for understatement.  When he wasn't, I had no sympathy for his addiction. It wasn't always a pleasant arrangement.

He died two years ago, at a relatively young age, from lung cancer.  My husband and oldest son still haven't fully healed from the whirlwind of short months between his diagnosis and his death.  It laid bare all of the relationships in his family, all the flaws, all the nastiness that was usually hidden in the closets.  My husband had to open his eyes to the reality of his family, and I had to try to hold him together, while being the sole support for our then 6 year old son. I didn't realize until it was over, how much it affected me.

It is time to look back on this life, full of weak moments and self pity, but also grown out of a pattern of existence that he never learned to get away from.  He, like us all, was flawed and weak; but the last Father's Day my husband spent with his father, only a month before his death, revealed a sweetness and vulnerability I had never noticed before.  As he stood to head off to his bed for a nap, he was shrunken and grey from the chemotherapy, but somehow very real at that moment.  He leaned down, and for the first time in my recollection, leaned down and kissed my husband, sitting in a chair with our sleeping baby on his chest.  His dad, with tears in his eyes, told him to take care of his family- me and our children- and not worry about the others. To me, he was giving his blessing to my husband's choices.  The saddest and funniest part of this memory is that my husband can't remember it. For me, it is one of those moments that crystallized in my memory with perfect clarity.

I have been thinking a great deal about this man and how his story is interwoven with my husband's, and therefore mine.  Now that he's gone, I can forgive him for some of the hurt he caused and I can better see some of his motivations and decisions.  It doesn't mean that I agree with them, but I understand.  I have dreamed of him since his death.  Very normal conversations about the family goings on, peppered with his dry and humorous observations.  I'd like to to think he learned a bit about what his relationship with his oldest son could have been.  I hope he realizes that his oldest child is everything he could have been, and I hope he realized that love, obligation and memories lead us all down paths where we should never set foot, but that some people manage to find their way out of the forests of the past and current circumstances and into a self created contentment.  Choices define us, whoever we start out as, but we don't need to follow in anyone's footprints.

Here's to the life of a human being- ordinary and unique- who is not forgotten, who was loved, and who is remembered.  May we all be remembered with clarity and understanding when we reach the end of our story.  May we remember that memories are part of us, but the power given to them, is given by us alone.  We choose to let them in, we choose their meaning and we choose the effect they have on our lives.

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