Wednesday, January 7, 2015

In the House of Memory

There are many rooms in the house of memory, rooms full of the stories and touchstones that bind us uniquely to ourselves.  Down one corridor is Happiness, adjacent to it is Kindness.  Love is there on the right with its closets of Lust and Abandon, Addiction and Redemption.  In Escheresque twists and tricks, the hall now leads to Sadness.  Despair and Loneliness and Depression all open, doors wide.

The stairway down is now leading up toward the rooms of Faith and Hope and Freedom.  A dome unmarked, which I call God, holds all the memories in and allows them to breathe.  Hallway after hallway connect door after door, room after room.  Hidden passages, secret gardens, roaring furnaces, bittercold regrets, each door a place you've been before.

I blunder through the many rooms carelessly most of the time, usually careening toward some story or thought, desperately trying to not be called into the rooms I pass.  Sometimes, I choose to wander - although, in truth, I think I am compelled to wander - and find doors to places I haven't really been in for a while - months, moments, decades, ever.  I have peered in them, inventoried them and gone on, not needing the lesson that time, not wanting the hurt another.

They're not really marked for us, but like an old friend we recognize them, sense them.  When I opened Sadness yesterday, I knew it.  I knew where I was going, the corner where I've sat before.  Yesterday was the anniversary of my dad's death.  It would be inaccurate to say I don't remember him always - in the reverse reality of parenting, in the time-trip that is childhood, in that confusion I sometimes am my father, more often I am, again, his son.  But that's not so much memory as it is a separate reality, the one where time is edgeless and moves in möbius endlessness.

Yesterday, and, truth told, right now - which is the same time, you understand - I sit, waiting.  The smell of smoke and Old Spice; the roughness of an old, tired face; the taste of scotch and coffee; the look of tenderness in old-soul eyes; an endless loop of melody whistled through the years.  It is comfortable here.

I look toward a window and see the snow coming down and my now life comes back into focus, the weather and the truck battery and the doctors appointments and the boys and dinner.  That snow is really deep, though.  Yes, it snowed that day in nineteen hundred and ninety six.  A deep soulful snow.  The same snow I look out on every snowstorm, anticipate in every forecast.  A cleansing snow, a final snow.

Last night the sunset brought me to tears, so beautiful and lonely.  I wasn't far from them, the tears.  Nick and Zack practically sang the sunset's perfection.  Pinks and purples on line after line of wisps of clouds.  The snow glowing blue and the coal back outlines of the trees against the orange horizon.  It was - is - stunning.

I don't remember the sunset nineteen years ago yesterday.  I was probably otherwise occupied.  But now, that day has its sunset, unforgettable and fitting.  And my sons are here with me as we sit in the corner of a room called Sadness and remember the day my father died.

Snow.  A sunset.  Joy.  Why are these here?  This is the where I am sad, right?  Again I am in the corridor and open the door to Happiness.  I see it all in a flash and cannot slow it down, perhaps it is the only way it can come.  A camping trip laughs in the voice of a child, a pipe smokes in a man's hand, a hamburger, a tie, a church-pew, a song... it's too much.  I look across the room hoping to connect to just one thing, one happy thought and let it take me.

I see it now.

I see it clearly, impossibly... it is the corner I just left.

It's the same damn room.

And from it, Nick and Zack are waving...

I cannot presume to imagine your memory for you.  You may hear it in songs and narratives, watch it like a movie or see it dancing in a fire.  You may taste it, smell it in the wind or hold it, like driftwood.

I'd like to hope this may be how the boys see their memories, down the hallway of childhood.  It is how I see mine, which is theirs, you know...

Thanks for haunting with me today.  It is as though it all happens at once sometimes, like you're watching over my shoulder, or sitting in a room with me and listening as the stories tell themselves.


  1. Thank you Bill. I thought I had done all my crying for this year, but the brought me to tears. We all needed him for a little longer. When I meet people who knew or worked with him the first word to describe him is KIND, I can't think of a better word to. be remembered by. I wish he could have known your family and they him.

  2. Wow, this was so well done! There are parts of this in particular that moved me and left me wanting more.
    My father died in 1997. I can still here his voice.

  3. Very nicely done Bill. I really enjoyed this.

  4. Fathers think of their fathers don't they. They're always there, around the corner.

    Beautiful as always Bill.