It is amazing how sometimes in life, the smallest things can turn out to have the biggest effect on you. It seems obvious now, that sorting old photos in to albums for mom would bring back some memories, but the whole experience seems to have become something much bigger for me. As the light, reflected from each photo, passed through my eyes I was truly astonished by how clear and vivid these memories presented themselves. It was as if the photos would come to life as a motion picture contained within my hands. I could hear my uncles laughter, feel my grandpas protective and commanding presence, hear the creaking and crashing of the patio door at the acreage, I could even smell the freshly fallen rain.
I am so grateful that these snapshots in time survived and that they were even captured in the first place, because if somewhere along the way they were lost, so too would be my memories. Not because they are contained within the photos, but rather because they serve as a key. Each one unlocking my mind, one memory at a time. Reminding me of who I was, who I am, and who I am working so hard to become. This is my therapy in technicolor. This is my smiling sorrow.
I used to have a re-occurring nightmare in which I could see myself as a young boy, as I am in these photos, fading slowly in to the blackness behind me. Reaching out for something, straining as if it were just out of reach. Desperate. Alone. Fading. Although, I no longer have the dream anymore, the image still seeps in to my thoughts from time to time, and the haunting symbolism of its manifestation is not lost on me. But perhaps it was at the time. Either way, seeing these images of myself growing up in still frame and the images of my family 20 years younger has brought in to focus my blurred recollection of events. With new eyes, I am a new man.
My parents were around the age I am now when my sister first starting turning up in photos and a few laps around the sun later, BOOM! Yours truly, had arrived. They were so young. Surely with grand plans for the future and dreams not that much different from the ones I have now. Growing up it always seemed like they had everything under control. Like they knew what they were doing, and I always felt like they had all the answers. So you can probably imagine my surprise when, at only 6 orbits old, I found out that they didn’t.
My parents splitting up was the first taste of true sadness I had ever experienced and the bitter chill bit deep. I don’t remember much about it now, all these years later, but you never forget a feeling like that. Helpless. Scared. Forgotten. I didn’t want it to happen and at the time I didn’t understand why it had to, but how could I? I was so small. Even now, with all the time that has passed, I still feel the echo of these emotions on some level, and seeing my parents hug for the first time in 20 years yesterday, made me feel like the little boy in the pictures. Always wanting to wear Dads shirts, even though they were way to big for me. Always wanting to hold Moms hand. Always wanting an extra cookie for sissy. The feeling lit a fire in my heart on an otherwise cold day.
I’ve been told that with age comes wisdom, and after all these long years, I’ve learned many things. I understand now that people are not perfect and life can be difficult sometimes, Relationships are complicated, and things don’t always turn out the way you expect. And that’s OK. Adversity builds character and forces us to grow. It seems like my sister used to smile more though. I guess we all did. Maybe those muscles begin to atrophy with age or maybe we all just take things a little bit too seriously now.
In any event, I realize now how hard it must have been for my parents and I don’t blame them for the mistakes that were made. I am just happy to still have both of them in my life. The rest is so small in comparison. I am so grateful for the dreams they put on hold, and the sacrifices they made, to give try and give me and my sister a fighting chance at happiness and a life worth living. Things have changed as much as they have stayed the same between then and now. And my memories, despite all things, still bring a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. I guess the whole situation has put things in perspective for me. Family, friends, and love, THAT is what’s important, everything else is either a bonus or it doesn’t matter. I want you both to know that I love you with all my heart, and I owe you so much. A debt I can only pay with a life lived in full. A life lived in happiness. The life you gave to me.