Monday, June 30, 2008

Through the Looking Glass

It occurred to me at some point over the last few days that when my father was the age I am right now (a handful of months away from 45), I was graduating from high school. The thought completely threw me.

It's not just the standard "How could I be so old?" or "How could he have been so young?" though it's a little of both of those. It's also about memory, and my kids.

I graduated from high school when my father was 44. That means that every childhood memory I have of him--every growing-up memory--everything before I left home and went to college--happened when he was younger than I am now. It's a lifetime of memories.

I try to think back and picture him, and of course, in my mind he appears Old at all times, because to me, as a child, he was always Old, as all grown-ups are Old.

Do I look that old to my boys?

Then I think way back, to second grade--to the age of my own Thing 1. What do I remember from birth to age 8, from my own life? I have to say: not much. Hints and glimpses of things, here and there. Fragments.

And it makes me wonder: of all the things I have done with my sons up to this point--the walks in parks, the carousel rides, the zoos and museums, the trips to Mystic, or Stockbridge, or Hawaii...what of all this will he remember? To me it seems a lifetime packed full of events, but I wonder--for him, will it all be lost, rendered down into hints and glimpses--pushed aside by more pressing things as he grows up? How much of the time we have spent together--the time I have loved, and relished--will he remember?

If I knew I was going to live forever, I suppose it wouldn't be as big a deal. There's always time to make new memories. But who knows how long we've really got? Who knows? If I died tomorrow, what memories of their father would either of my boys be able to hold onto, as the years went on? By the time they graduated high school, would I be anything more than a glimmer? If my own father had died when I was in second grade, what would I have remembered by the time I left high school?

Grim ponderings for a bright and sunny Monday morning.

Bah--enough of that. Get back to work.

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