The Memory of You
“It’s human nature,” he said, “to remember the things that stick out. The things that are out of the ordinary. Let’s say you’ve driven 100 miles today and somewhere around mile 10, you hit a rock. You’d remember hitting the rock, but not the other 99.99 miles.”
I sat, legs crossed, in a hard-as-a-rock black velvet wing chair. I alternated between tapping my foot in the air and making circles with my ankles. “That still doesn’t explain entire chunks of my memory being gone,” I said simply. It didn’t. I had come to the realization this week that I am, in fact, one of those people that utilizes disassociation as a coping mechanism. I discovered this while poring over boxes and boxes of old family photos of which I have no recollection.
“Grief,” he continued, “will do that to a person.”
I didn’t need a reminder of what today is. I had been preparing for it since last September 11th. Today is the pause before the sigh escapes. Today is the day I lost one of the most important and influential people in my life. Charlie.
I’ve spent 13 years missing him and it doesn’t really get any easier. In the beginning, if a day went by that he wasn’t in the forefront of my mind, I felt guilty. I felt guilty for being alive when so many other people weren’t that lucky. I felt guilty because it didn’t feel like luck to be breathing anyway. In time, I thought about him every other day and then a few times a week but it never became less than that. He is there, burrowed into my soul. He’s a part of me I can’t lose. Especially now that I realize that my memory is so faulty.
“There is a sense in which mourning can be finished, when people regain an interest in life, feel more hopeful, experience gratification again, and adapt to new roles. There is also a sense in which mourning is never finished.” Bereaved persons who are asked, “When did your grief end?” or “When was your mourning over?” often respond: “Never.” A bereaved person may rebound from the initial impact of loss and acute grief, or from subsequent eruptions of renewed grief, while never fully getting done with all that mourning involves in learning to live with the same loss and grief. If mourning really is an individual journey, then it need not have a single, fixed outcome for all bereaved persons. – Corr (Death and Dying, 2008, p. 236)
I don’t have to cry all day every day now. I don’t have to, but I still have my moments. And if you asked me when my mourning was over, I would point to Corr and say “Never.” And that has to be okay. It may be a choice or it may just be part of the way we’re wired, but I remember hitting that rock at a thousand miles an hour.
I remember how blue the sky was.
I remember the contrast of the blackest clouds I’d ever seen.
I remember the panic. The phone calls. I remember the posters.
But I remember kindness too. I remember when we were nice to each other for a few weeks. I remember how he patiently tried teaching me to tie my laces. I remember him reading to me. I remember him rushing back from Circles with the handcuff key on his chain to unlock me from the refrigerator door after I’d been too inquisitive. I remember him taking me to my first concert. I remember him teaching me how to navigate the Big Apple when I moved back as an adult after growing up in the exact opposite place – Miami.
I remember his laugh. If I close my eyes and drown out all other sounds, I can sometimes still hear it.
I remember the way he’d say he was going to put my head through a wall if I didn’t behave.
I remember him teaching me how to mix drinks when we all lived together in my grandmother’s house next door. I was 11.
I remember his 4th of July parties.
I hit that rock and I kept on going. And I remember.