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Tempus Fugit

lil Joni Rae, circa 1985.

Remember when you were a kid and you asked how long until Christmas?  Your parents would tell you it was a week away, but you HAD to find out what you were getting, you couldn’t wait…  Because a whole week?  OMG that is like seven whole days!  Lets face it, when you are a kid you live in dog time and a week is like two months.  So you would search the house high and low for those presents until eventually you would find that hidden treasure… Or, at least I did…  And if you were really smart and had great fine motor skills (like a certain nine year old girl who shall remain nameless) you would carefully peel the sticky tape off to sneak a peek at what you got and meticulously re-wrap that present before you vanished into the pre-Christmas night like a ninja, leaving no lingering trace behind to give you away.

Because when you are a kid, it is tough to wait.  Time drags on.  Halloween and Christmas and Birthdays and Easter were high points of the year.  I would wait for each one, counting down the months and then the days, so excited because it was something different then our regular, boring, blah days.  Holidays in my family were extra special too- we had big blow out celebrations. And every Christmas, every Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and Easter and St. Patrick’s Day was a time to talk about my dad.  Every time the same thing…

“Your Father did this… And this… And this…”  He was an artist, a trickster, a loving husband and father.  He played piano and painted and rode horses and punched his sister’s jerky boyfriend in the nose.

It wasn’t important to me- I had never knowingly met him, hadn’t spoken to him, and he’d been dead a hundred years as far as I was concerned.  I didn’t get it- I didn’t get why these people were talking about him all the time.  I didn’t get why these people were trying to get an eight year old girl to worship the memory of a phantom.

And at times this led to me resenting not only them but the omnipresent specter of my father watching me wherever I went.  As I got older these feelings cemented into teenage obstinacy, to the point where one year I refused to go to my dad’s grave.  It was our annual Memorial Day trip, and very important to my grandmother- and the first time I ever put my foot down and said no.   I hated standing there, staring down at his grave, watching my grandmother lovingly tend his flowers and weed the patch in front of his stone.  It felt so wrong to watch them grieve and listen to their stories about him when I didn’t feel sad, or feel anything besides boredom.  I felt like I had to pretend sincerity every year and my cranky teenage self had better things to do.

Fast forward seventeen years to a thirty year old mother of four, one of whom is a six year old boy- and that is just a blink of the eye.  Six years is such a short span of time-it is an instant.  It feels like yesterday, even though I know that last summer is ancient history to him.

When I was eight my father had been gone just six years.  I can’t imagine how much pain and sadness filled my family’s collective heart.  Of course they were still talking about it, because to them it had just happened.  They were still grieving, and trying to share bits and pieces of him with me because they took comfort in talking about him.

I called my grandmother on Saturday and she told me that she talked about my father so I wouldn’t forget him.  She said that for a long time I had my own memories and I would tell her things and share my own stories.  But over time the things I remembered began to unravel until one day I just didn’t have any left.  She watched it happen, and there wasn’t anything she could do.  I think that to her it must have been like losing a piece of him all over again.

She told me that when she was little her parents took her to visit family graves every Memorial Day.  That was the time to pay their respects to loved ones that had passed, and tend to graves.  She wanted to continue that tradition with me and that is why we went to the cemetery every year to see my father’s grave.  I wish I could go back and explain this to my angsty self.  I wish I had understood then that I didn’t have to go there to visit a man I didn’t remember, I needed to go for her.  My grandmother wanted me there, and it should have been enough that it was important to her.

I told her my thoughts on how swiftly time has sped up, and that I understand how much they must have missed him, and I was so sorry I stopped going to his grave with her.  She told me that now, at seventy-eight years old, time is finally slowing down again.  She said that now it does feel like a long time since he passed away.

I guess it ebbs and flows.  We start out with so few years behind us and the whole of our long, long lives ahead of us- and it seems like every moment stretches on and on.  Maybe when we are old we have so much living behind us and not nearly enough left to go, so we hold onto each memory and each day.  And all of those days stretch out until time once again slows down.

5 Responses to Tempus Fugit

  1. First: That picture of you is beyond adorable.

    Second: I was a weird kid- I so couldn’t bear the thought of spoiling a surprise. The thought of peeking at my own presents made my heart ache with the knowledge that I would disappoint the giver… but darn if I didn’t WISH I could bring myself to do it. I’d stand there and stare, but I absolutely could not touch them. Ever. LOL!!

    Third, and more importantly: The way the memories seem to fade… that part of this post really spoke to me. When I was younger, I lost the man who raised me. For a long time, I would talk about him to my little sister- beg her to remember him. She was so young, and eventually, she didn’t. The memories were just… gone. It made me so sad, but it also made me treasure the ones I had (and still have…) and realize just how precious those were.

    <3

    • First: Thanks! I was a pretty cute kid- hence the amazing adorableness of my littles (cuz, you know, the huz has nothing to do with that. ha ha)

      Second: I had to KNOW. Needed to KNOW everything. I would get so freaked out not knowing stuff. I loathe surprises to this day.

      Third: That is sad. I think that is how my family felt too. :(

      (((HUG)))

      PS- awesome that you have those memories though. What a gift that is!

  2. I loved this post, mostly because I try to remember those times when I though of myself when the objective really should have been thinking about others – what I needed just did not always have to come first. And sometimes it would have taken so little…

    And I’ve been thinking how lightning fast time seems to fly by now. I remember those times when weeks felt like years, and now years feel like weeks.

    I blink and another child’s birthday has come and gone… I blink again and the holidays have flown past in a blur.

    That was so wise – yes, it just happened for them. Six years was nothing. A breath not exhaled yet.

    And I’m glad you could tell your grandmother that now you understand. That, itself, is a lovely gift.

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