Past Perfect

Sometimes in the night, or even in the day, my mind goes back years and years ago to visit a different time. It’s funny how as the years go by, the motion pictures of my memories grow shorter and shorter, eventually becoming faded snapshots. But the images still have great power to make me relive those moments that happened so long ago. The reliving takes place in a sort of darkness, which is to say pictureless. But there is a rush of feelings that I can still experience just as if I could still see, and feel and smell them. As with the images, I don’t really feel the touch of things, instead I recall the texture of things and how something felt in my hands, against my face, or surrounding me. I don’t so much remember the odors of a place as I do what they made me think of, and I think of them again as I did so long ago.

There are newer times. Moments that are not so wane and faded where the richness of the recollections are greater. The more recent the greater the recollection. But somehow there is little difference between the more vivid and rich memories and those more aged. I can recall holding my children, each as they were born and their first breaths took my own breath away. I can still feel the wonder of the miracles they were, so real that I could hold them in my hands and feel their weight. I can recall, even without seeing them, how crystalline and clear their little eyes were, knowing they were unfocused and not really seeing. But I also knew that they imprinted on me, recognizing me as their father. There is no way one could ever forget such absolute magic. At least, I don’t see how it could be forgotten. Those instants caused me to believe in love at first sight. A love so strong that unlike the memories themselves, the force of that love is unabated.

But I can remember many firsts that were different. My first ride alone on a bicycle, my first jump from an airplane, my first look at my wife. There are so many things I recall that I can understand how memory can lose resolution, while not losing their material fact and content. As life went along, I often wondered what the point of memories was. Of course, there are easy and fast answers, and all of them wrong. In the end, memories are important and happen because we need them to because they define us as people, telling us who we are and where we came from. They continually show us what’s important, leading by example if we’re only willing to listen. Remembering where we left the cars keys, our multiplication tables, and when we last changed our car’s oil seem important, but they’re merely conveniences compared to the real purpose and meaning of memories.

In these days when I can begin to see the sunset of my time here, those memories become more important than ever. This is the time that we look back and often wonder what the point of this, that, or everything was and we find the answer in our memories. We find that the meaning of our lives is wrapped in those containers of recollection like so many gifts beneath a holiday tree. And too we find the antithesis of purpose, also contained in those packages of of memory.

A lack of recollection has to be the cruelest thing of all. Stripping such definition is to leave one cast loose from everything of import. No worse thing is imaginable to me. It is a simple horror, and one all too common yet all that rare. At times we inflict it upon ourselves, sometimes even with partial intention as we resort to things which are geared to make us forget. And somehow as we forget some things, that which we wanted to forget because all that more visible and inflicting of itself upon us.

I love my memories. I love the way that time gives them a patina and washes them out so artistically, while leaving their meaning so intact. I love that they can be pulled into view so simple and often, induced by some touch of the senses or whim of thought. I love that they are there to fill the empty moments as time slows in quiet preparation for the time they will cease, along with me. I know that when the time comes for me to pass on, that if I depart while I am recollecting the important times, that I will leave smiling.