Memories are funny little things often compared to a spring breeze – one knows not whence they come or where they go. And yet they come. They flood us all with a faint smell that catches or the way the sun shines in a particular spot or a few little words in the right order with a certain annunciation and our lungs take captive that breath for a moment in a vain attempt to hold such a reminiscence captive.
And just as quickly as they drown us, memories vanish. “I’m not sure if I remember where that happened or when or really even if it did happen, but I do know something happened and I should remember it.” Some call it aging or Alzheimer’s or even repression. There is only one time in my most recent mind during which my brain shut down and no memories were allowed to pass behind my eyes for me to relive. I was sobbing and remember distinctly that if I could just get them, catch these little memories out of the air and pen them down, they would be an elixir, a stopping of the tears. The details of where aren’t really significant, but it was warm and I was outside in a weak white plastic lawn chair. Alone. I prayed. I thought. I tried, but I couldn’t remember a single memory with my grandfather – it was as if they’d disappeared completely. He didn’t exist.
Over time I remembered here and there of the fish cleaned, the tobacco smell, the electric fence, the picking of the corn and peas and peanuts. I owe a good bit of that to a dear brother who talked me down from my grief-stricken stupor. And still it all feels like a dream. I haven’t been back to the house where my boogers turned brown and my finger nails were never clean. I haven’t walked barefoot under the tobacco barn in, I can confidently say, years. I haven’t seen those sunsets or been enthralled by those hickory trees. I haven’t walked those trails or filled a two gallon bucket with vegetables, ripe for the picking.
So maybe it’s that distance that keeps it all in the dreamy side of my mind, making me wonder if I’ve lived it at all or if, perhaps, I only imagined. But part of me sees Him everyday in rolling hills and a plethora of deer, in sunsets on mountaintops though He never lived on one, and in the way the rain sets in at a certain time in the spring. I see him in the way old men stand with legs bowed out in their wrangler jeans and boots, plaid shirts tucked in and ball caps donned to hide their balding heads from the southern sun. I see him in the wood work and the cotton standing tall beside the road. I see him in the guns and knives and family traditions we often try to hide away from to keep out the feelings. I see him in the ways my brothers carry on all stubborn like and I hear him in the words my mama says.
Tomorrow is one year from the phone call, the tears, the starfish, and the “Grieve, but don’t let it suffocate you. You have to keep moving” advice from Mere on the little beach in Cagayan. Tomorrow is one year from this funny tree on my wrist. It’d be easy to say our family has fallen apart – just washed right clean of any sort of organization or glue that might hold us together, but I won’t. Because I am of the mind that one year can only grow a person. Some people grow apart while others grow together, but their is definitely growth. And, bless it, we have grown.