My father had a great memory. He could remember who so-and-so was and when we went to that place. I could describe a memory to him and he could pinpoint where we were, when and with who. I hate that that's gone now. Parts of my childhood effectively lost because no one remembers them. I wonder what he and I shared that I'll never know to remember. What insight he would have about who I am today from who he knew me to be then.
My grandmother's memory is going. She can't remember that she just went to the bank that morning or who was just on the phone. But, if you ask her about the past - how she met my grandfather, who was the orneriest child, what was Oklahoma like during the dust bowl - everything seems to get clearer for her. So I seize every opportunity to learn more about her. In such a real and intimate way, she created me. I can learn about myself, learning about her. So I ask every question I can come up with and pay attention to everything she has to say.
When I go on vacation during the summer, I don't go down the shore or to visit friends or even camping (though I wish I did all of these more often). No, what I choose to invest that time and money in each summer is going to Ohio to visit my aunts and uncles and cousins and my grandmother. There are three annual family reunions I could go to each summer; two on my dad's side and one one my mom's. At all of these events there are more than fifty people who are related to me there. I choose to invest time and money in seeing my family because I have learned the hard way that time is precious and your family are the only people who really know you.
My cousin Elisabeth and her husband Chris came to visit last weekend. I'm in the middle of a very busy time at work and have been feeling more worn down than usual. Yet after spending the afternoon walking miles around my city with them, I felt refreshed. There is something about being with family that just strips off all the armour and lets you relax. They already know who you are; you can't hide anything from them so you just stop trying and relax. Even though I was physically tired, I felt like my brain had stopped spinning and I could just be. Something about the safety and comfort of family just gets to the core of you and reminds you who you really are.
So on this day more than most days, I am remembering the importance of remembering. Of locating my place in the family of things. Of knowing who my people are.
|The Bloughs, circa 1998|
|The Millers, 2008|