Archive for Family

Triggered

I had my first true “triggered” experience the other day. Where I was reading something and it took me right back to a painful memory.

The book was Stoner by John Williams. At the end of the book, he describes in detail the quiet moments of a dying character. It’s a brilliant passage, the last four pages of the book: a profound, moving description of the dying of the light.

I thought of my mother, who died on July 31st at age 95. I felt her last hours, imagined anew that experience, and tears filled my eyes.

And you know what?

I was grateful for that book. For that trigger that came without warning.

The beauty of a novel, just one of the beauties, is that you can stop reading. You can close the book, think your thoughts, manage those emotions on your own terms.

If we have deep feelings about events in our lives, those memories are going to be triggered somewhere, somehow. A cardinal alights on a branch and it reminds you of someone. The smell from a teacup. An empty park bench. There’s no hiding from the triggers, no way to avoid remembering.

John Williams in Stoner wrote an achingly beautiful scene in which the main character passes from the living. Inch by inch, moment by moment. For me, while it brought tears, it also gave solace.

I am heartened and enriched that books can stir us so deeply.

 

 

Not Loving the Hand I’ve Been Dealt in 3 Photos

Lisa took a photo of me playing cards. It’s become a regular thing in our home, the four of us frequently convene after dinner for highly competitive games of “Oh, Hell!”

I took Lisa’s original color photo and fooled around with simple iPhone edit features, then cropped it a couple of times, to come up with this angsty sequence. Mostly this post is because I wanted a way to see them together, like rolling film. 

 


Echo in the Snow

Took this snap on a morning walk, Monday the 4th, after a couple of inches of snow. Photo is a detail with a silvertone filter edited on, via iPhone. Nothing fancy. I just like the way my dog (lower right) disappears into the scene.

 

In Defense of Living in the Past

They say you shouldn’t live in the past.

“Be present in the here and now.”

But the older I get,

the more past there is.

It keeps piling up.

And, of course, that’s the only place

I can go to visit

some of my favorite people.

A favorite photo of my father,

Mr. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”

Not a big drinker, don’t mean

to give that impression.

But he liked his Scotch.

Sleepless on Long Island: Remembering My First Pitchback

I’m struck by a memory this morning and thought I’d write it down before, you know, it all evaporates into the mist of dementia. I’m not there yet!

One week when I was young — let’s guess that I was six or seven — my elderly grandparents came to watch us while my parents went away on a trip. This was a rare and usual thing for our family. 

At that time, I was infatuated with baseball and “ball games” of any description. I’d fill hours by playing imaginary games, keeping score in notebooks. I’d throw a Spaulding against the back of our house, perfecting my Jerry Koosman-inspired windup. Whap, whap, whap, endlessly against the red shingles.

Well, grandpa was old and he needed his naps. He slept in my oldest brother Neal’s room — who must have been away at Princeton at the time — which was right next to the target for my incoming missiles. 

The poor guy couldn’t sleep a wink. 

Here’s the amazing part. They could have easily forbid me from doing the thing I loved most of all. Entirely reasonable request. Grandpa needs his sleep. But they didn’t. Instead, the next day, my grandparents arrived with a pitchback they’d purchased at a local sports store. “Here you go, slugger, use this as a target. Just, please, no more slamming against the house.”

Wonder of wonders. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.

Man, I loved that pitchback. Sploing, sploing, sploing. We positioned it under our backyard apple tree and I played for hours every day while Grandpa, I hope, got his rest.

That’s called problem-solving, folks. And kindness. I didn’t fully get it at the time, but I do now.