Monday, March 26, 2007

home coming

I have mixed feelings about memory. Not the kind of memory that recognizes we put the keys on the ledge and files it away for easy retrieval later. - I am concerned with memory and how it defines us as individuals. I believe memory is vital. God often had the Israelites build altars at points of significance so that they would remember and not forget.

Yet there is a danger in altars. If we aren't careful we worship the altar and translate it into an idol. Sometimes I feel like that is what is happening in today's society. We worship at the altar of memory - we tithe to the gods of scrapbooks and journals of self. We lose track of why we are remembering and only focus on how well we are doing it.

Your memory is a monster; you forget - it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you - and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you! John Irving

And yet you can't go home without traveling the halls of memory. Revisiting your childhood means addressing memories. Memories that you never forget - but somehow never think about either. And here is the wierd thing about memory. Once you open the door and walk in - you can travel indefinitely, finding many things that you hadn't abought about in years. In fact, it is rather like getting lost. The present becomes the untouchable place and you wander around in a world that seems almost more tangible than reality because it is the world your mind made as it recorded your life. And another odd thing, sometimes it isn't the obvious things you remember. You know what I mean, certain memories pop up in the everyday landscape unbidden and regularly. The events of a date replay themselves surprisingly regularly, coming unbidden when the person seated across from you moves a certain way, or when you eat pizza, or...They are such a fixture, that you would imagine that the place where you sat in the car and talked one night would arouse a multitude of memories.

But no such thing happens, you park the car and gaze across the expansive landscape and remember when you were younger and you stopped there with your mom and stroked forget-me-nots and watch their leaves fold like half a dozen little prayers. And you wonder, can I grow forget-me-nots where I live so my daughters can stroke their leaves and watch them close?

When I think of Junior High, I don't see my classmates so much as I see weird moments. Like calling out to the janitor Rodger who I thought was a nice guy. Or the time we walked out to the football field and my best friend Trish suddenly sank to her waist into the earth. There was an abandoned well that the school was not aware of. I remember Trish's dad from before I ever knew Trish. He sold us our first ewe Sugar which we kept at my great-grandpa P's. I could tell you memories of that place...that are more fragrant and real than my memories of college. Perhaps it is because our senses are more aware when we are young.

There were Wednesday nights sitting in front of the school waiting for Mom to take me to Bible Study. The fat boy Robert would ask me to go out with him and I would say no. The conversation was on loop with an occasional pause when he asked "Why not?" and I would respond "You're fat." I dated him later after he moved away. He was still a big guy...but he had the virtue of not being from my school.

So here I ramble boring you with random memories and I don't care. It seems they need speaking as if perhaps writing them down will make that mark permanent. Ah, see there goes the idol of memory. Record it make it permanent without understanding why we were meant to remember.

The monster of memory has my grandma firmly in his grasp. She is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease. He holds her memories in places she can't reach and hands them out piece meal so her language comes out like that of an infant and we are all strangers mis-mashed like Picasso's paintings. He must work strangeness to men's faces as she stares intensely and with definite dislike at all men except her brother who was the last person that she recognized frequently.

It is often at funerals that we are gathered to remember the life of the one who passed on. And people often remark at funerals that the will never forget the deceased. No one explains why. Is it a salve for the loneliness of missing a person who was part of our life? I think we often focus incorrectly at funerals. My grandfather was far from a saint but he had that right. He asked that there be no eulogy, he declined an honor guard and flag, he requested only the reading of scripture and a sermon on that scripture and no mention of his life. He had us focus on the one reason we ought to remember anything, Christ.

I suppose one of the reasons the call to build altars has passed is because the full testimony has been recorded in the Bible. What God has called us to remember and know has been written down for us and we pass it one to another. Altars eventually fail. Stones fall down and turn to dust. God's Word is infallible and will last in spite of our attempts to mark it with our own will because He lives forever and so He will protect it always. Perhaps that is why it is so hard to spend time in the Word. We want to believe that what we think matters more. We want our paltry scribblings to last.

Have you ever noticed the golden light in the happiest memories? It is the warm color of the setting sun and it has dust motes glinting in it.

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these Susan B Anthony

more to come...


  1. I spent my morning trying to write down a memory as it came.

    I've also been thinking a lot about memories as my mom loses hers.

    Makes me think about what I have written on my heart.

    This is some fabulous writing, Me. Much to ponder...

  2. to be honest, if I may, I am partly enjoying this series and partly not enjoying it because it involves a loss.

    Very sorry for your loss. I hope that this blogging about the somewhat complicated situation brings you peace.

    And forgive me for not having the right words to say--I never have and never will...

  3. Anonymous4:59 AM

    Me, They were touch-me-nots not forget-me-nots. I have cried more when reading these than at anyother time during this. The tears really flowed in your description of Alzheimer's and G.
    Love NLM

  4. Anonymous5:01 AM

    Also I must say it is beautiful and poignant for me. NLM

  5. {{{{{{{Me}}}}}}}}

  6. Anonymous11:05 AM

    He had us focus on the one reason we ought to remember anything, Christ

    What a wonderful man he must have been, it must make the memory of him more precious.

  7. Dear M.

    Without your Grandma K. & M., Grandpa K. & M. and your parents you wouldn't be the person you are today. So in a way their memories live on in you.

  8. Wow and again I say wow, that is beautiful writing and thinking again.

    I am enthralled by the strength of memory you have, in such a place. But you touch more than memory here I believe.