Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Do you remember?

Nearly eighty years old. That has the ring of November, doesn’t it? Which makes it easier to admit that we can no longer do some of the things we did in the “old days.” But never fear, there are some things we can do better than ever---for instance, remembering. Though we are prone to forget where we left the keys, and our offspring occasionally kid us about “living in the past,” the truth is we do remember a great deal about the life we have lived. And why not? The numbers don’t lie. We have so much more past behind us than we have future before us. In that case why not take a moment from time to time to recall and revisit that past, and how it has impacted the persons we have become.      
For instance, in the course of the last week or two, in an informal email fashion, I have heard from several long ago high-school friends. As you might expect, claiming those folks as “friends” is a rather imprecise label. We were in school at the same time, sixty-some years ago, and were more like acquaintances than friends. Though we haven’t seen each other in years, there was a time when we walked the same hallways and greeted each other in passing---or did not. Through no choice of our own we had been thrown together in a common place and time. Some of us had reveled in those common experiences. Others simply endured them. Either way, in the process we cultivated a common mythology, some of which we have shaped and molded over the years to suit our own needs.

Truth is, after all those years I enjoyed the chance to reconnect with those folks in a casual email contact. In fact I recommend it. You ought to give it a try. But be aware, even the most superficial of visits is apt to trigger some serious remembering---a return to places and events you may not have visited in a very long time. Most of the resulting recollections will probably be of a general nature---pleasant musings about what we like to recall as an unfettered, less structured time of life---creating a mood we may choose to linger in for a while. Occasionally those remembered moments may become more detailed and specific, complete with faces and names. Either way there can be no doubting the power of serious, heart-felt remembering.

Remembering, of course, is a very individual activity. Two or more persons, reliving a shared experience, are bound to remember their time together differently. After all, our recollections are shaped by our own uniquely personal filters. Yet no matter what we remember, a single constant remains---we are dealing with the past. Remembering is about looking back, and assigning our own values to what we experienced. The future, on the other hand, is a great unknown. At best it is a blank page of undetermined possibilities---answers we hope will arrive on time, but may not arrive at all. 

That is the dichotomy we live with, at eight or eighty---remembering our past, while trying to decipher the future. After nearly eighty years spent creating my own answers---some right, some wrong---I realize there is more, much more, for me to remember about the past than there is for me to look forward to in an ever-shortening future.

So why not accept the truth of it? Connecting with caring “friends” in even the most casual way---with no need to impress or “one-up” each other---is one of the most therapeutic perks of late life. With that in mind I give thanks for pleasant memories of pleasant times spent with pleasant people. (Even those times when one or the other of us was not so pleasant) 

And a special thanks to the recent string of memory-makers who, for reasons of their own, stepped forward to offer their personal feelings about the highs and lows of October and November life. Their sharing and caring was enough to fuel my own remembering. I realize that was not their intention, but that’s the way it works. Though it may be unhealthy to dwell too long on our remembering, in the end everyone of us is a part of someone else’s memories.

How about you? Does that “Remembering” resonate with you? I’d appreciate hearing what you think.