In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I am writing a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors.
“After she died, things seemed to go out of focus for awhile, and I felt strange to myself.”-from Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Every night after and every day since
I found myself crying when the memory hits
Sometimes it knocks me down, sometimes I can just put it away
-Through My Prayers
I could have penned all these words exactly after Mom died in 2018, and still today. I would have never thought to say “I felt strange to myself” but that is a perfect way of putting it. Sometimes still, the memories knock me down and I imagine they always will.
I am enchanted by the idea of love creeping over a person. I remember when I went off to college, I planned to be a career woman and not even think of marriage until I was at least 25. The following summer I met a boy. When we went out we talked and talked and pretty soon I realized I was turning all the others down (not that there were many, but still…) By the time I was 25 I’d been married for five years and had two children. And 40 years later, we’re not exactly twirling on the floor but we are still talking. And we are both huge fans of The Avett Brothers. Can’t wait for the 25th!
It’s been proven that the sense of smell is closely linked to memory. I’ve found, personally, that sound can trigger the floodgates, also.
The train that runs behind my house is a comforting sound to me, though it’s so loud that if I’m outside I can’t carry on a conversation until it passes. The clack and squeal of the wheels and the whistle echoing off the rock embankment and through the woods takes me back to the summers of my youth. I am once more eleven years old, riding the Dahlonega Mine Train at Six Flags Over Georgia. That’s was after standing in a line that snaked back and forth for what seemed like forever with my brothers, only to get almost to the front of the line and have my little brother start crying in fear, refusing to ride. So, we got out of line, delivered him to Mom and Dad, and started all over again. But it was worth it. I never tire of the thrill of a roller coaster, though I have to refrain from those that turn upside down because of my motion sickness tendency..
I have other train memories, real trains and not just pretend ones. But this is one of the happiest.
“Someone dies and a little trickle of indestructible keepsakes appears, to swell the flood. This steady influx is not counterbalanced by any comparable outgo.” – E.B. White
I am still fighting this flood. The trickle began when my mother-in-law died and I became keeper of the family photos and what little history there was. Before I could make much of a dent in sorting and such, my mother died. That is when the keepsakes really began to swell the flood. If I had not been there to rescue some, my brothers may have put them all downstream. Now I am still dog-paddling through photos, documents, letters, and the occasional surprise. There has been a lot of outgo, though. Some has been passed on to family members and some has hit the trashcan. Yet still I have items in three different closets that often just overwhelms me.
I thought I’d have it all sorted before this summer ended. It is a daunting task at times. When I come across the fourth copy of a genealogy chart, I have to be sure it is actually a replica and not a different one before it gets tossed. When there are numerous copies of the same photo, I have to decide who else might want a copy and contact them before I toss it. It seems never ending. And for what?
My great-uncle Sim. Maybe related to Jed Clampett?
I hope to pass it all down to my next of kin one day. I want them to get it in an orderly arrangement so they don’t have to think about it and won’t have to make all these decisions. I want it to just flow right down to be perused at their leisure. To give them a sense of family history. A sense of belonging. For that’s what it’s done for me, though it hasn’t been easy. Fresh grief doesn’t make it any easier, either.
“Ashamed of herself as mothers are when they realize they have passed that point in life when they want more from their daughters than their daughters want from them.” – Frederik Backman
I hit this point many years ago. It has taken a while to settle in my heart that it’s a natural progression, this growing away from our mothers. And sometimes there is a point where we tip back towards them. I was still in that tipping back that comes when the empty nest makes you realize your mother’s nest has been empty a long time, when Mom died. Now there isn’t even a nest for her except in memories. Yet, I try to follow in her footsteps and reach out to those I know are lonely. I have a long way to go, but I have Mom’s example to guide me.
And all is not lost on the mother/daughter front. Sure, I yearn for the days when they were young and occasionally thought I hung the moon. But, I see in them a spark of Mom’s kindness and know that they will always tip back to me now and then.
This is the third book I’ve read by Fredrik Backman. Not sure if this or A Man Called Ove is my favorite. This one is story with lots of characters, which gives me hope for the book I’ve written that all is not lost. It’s main character is a child, but every character is a rich part of the story.
“…. because the people who reach the end of their days must leave others who have to live out their days without them.” — Frederick Backman
There is death in this story, but it it necessary for the story, just like in our lives. I am living out my days without a number of people who I wish were till here. I wish Cathy was here because her sense of adventure and love of music matched mine. I wish Debbie was here to leave me long, drawn out messages on voicemail. I wish Betty was here to enjoy watching me eat Key Lime pie and to tell us that “Larry says Hi!” And that Larry was here to say Hi and listen because he was always interested in everybody. I wish Charlie was here to teach E how to fish.
I wish Mamaw was here so I could ask her about what happened in 1938. I wish Great-Aunt Marie was here because where she was love was. And I’d even like to hear her burp again. I wish Dad was here to teach his great-grandkids all his nonsensical sayings. I wish Mom was here for so many reasons, I can’t even begin. So I’ll just say she was the one who always asked how Loretta was doing. And she would have liked Ruby just as much.
So I live out my days without them. I take Ruby now on my adventures and listen to lots of music with my husband. I think of Betty every time I have Key Lime anything. I’ve reached out to other relatives, some of whom I only recently met, to ask about 1938 and many other things. My brothers and I carry on with Dad’s sayings, and Mom’s jokes. But my voicemail still stays pretty empty.