Sep 12 2012

The Imprints in my mind.

The two-year anniversary of “that week” in October is coming up.  I don’t have it marked on my calendar.  Believe me, I’d rather forget that any of it happened.  I don’t search out the memory; after all, there’s no point in dwelling.  Yet the slow changing of the foliage, the hints of red and gold, call it to the surface.

In the morning, I stand outside on the front porch and inhale a breath as I look out across the park across the road. The grass looks rich sap green in its dampness. A few leaves have already fallen from the tree in the yard and are snuggled against the white picket.  I remember seeing this before, I remember the same smell.  I can feel a memory stirring as I wonder where and when I have sensed this before.  Then a cool breeze blows by and whispers in my ear, “Do you remember now?”

And I do.

I think of my friend, bounding up the street, heading to our house for a Sunday night coffee; waving and teasing  every neighbour that  he passed by.  I think of his big boisterous laugh. I think of his story telling. I think of the four of us friends calling out “protocol” when the conversation became too convoluted with laughter and too many opinions, being thrown across the table all at the same time.  We implemented it as a cue to stop and allow the speaker to speak freely without interruption.  We knew we’d never get a full story out or conversation finished without it.

The conversations were always so lively.

Then I remember the day I found him, laying on the cement, staring up at the sky; his eyes, the cleanest, clearest soft blue that I had ever seen.  His eyes were naturally a mid tone blue, probably a wash of ultramarine with a dimming of Payne’s grey.  That morning they were a light wash of pearlescent cerulean.

I wondered if it was a display of colour subtraction theory; the visual phenomenon where the appearance of one color will lessen its presence in a nearby color. It did make sense.

Then I wondered if I was just seeing the reflection of the sky or heaven in his eyes.

I inhale again and I see my father, three days after I found my friend.  My father is laying in the ICU. He wasn’t supposed to be there.  His procedure was routine; he was an outpatient.

Flashes of events follow in quick succession.  I wipe a tear from his cheek with the sleeve of my pink sweatshirt. I open his eyelids so that he can move his eyes up and down to answer a question; to tell me if he’s ok, if he’s in pain; to tell him I love him and to see his eyes move up telling me yes, he loves me too.

I see my sister-in-law standing in front of me, outside the hospital in the rain; having a cigarette, shivering, we are looking at each other. There we are, the two of us saying very few words, trying to comfort one another, trying to understand what was happening.  I remember her dampened hair and how the pieces clumped slightly together and hung over her left shoulder.

This morning feels like the morning of the day, the last day that I saw him alive. The air feels the same; the sky is of the same hue.  My toes are cold, just like they were that day. I remember it all.

It’s strange how the brain works when something significant happens. The senses are alive, every detail, every sense, sight, smell, touch and sound imprints permanently. The event stays on the surface for a while. You think about it, you reflect on it, you talk about it. The synapses between the nerve cells of your brain and the memory strengthen.  One day for whatever reason, the thoughts about the event slowly recede and sink into the wiring and encoding of the brain as new experiences occur.  For the moment, the newer experience is more emotionally charged and the wiring and coding that comes with it is strengthened and layered on top of the weakening charge of the older memory

The memory is still there but it’s now running in the background. You hardly notice it and eventually you even forget about it some days, unless someone brings the event up, or the air smells a certain way, or feels a certain way, or you taste something that tastes like something you’ve had before. The sense triggers an electrical impulse back to your brain. It does a rapid fire search through the memory banks, looking to see if this information has been logged before.  It recognizes a key element and electricity shoots through the familiar path of the circuit, recharging it and lighting it to the forefront of your mind.

You remember it all over again, just like it was yesterday. It’s all because you stood on the porch on a day in September and smelled the arrival of autumn.

It’s strange when you remember back to such a cloudy time from such a clear view in the present. You see what was and what is now and you notice the contrast.  You see how the story evolved and how you changed as the result of it.

You see how different some things are now and you notice threads of things that have always been and will probably always be.  Some of those are good, some of them are frustrating.

You see what you have become as a result of your experiences and what you did with them. Hopefully you are content.  You marvel at what you had to lose to get to where you are now.

Sometimes you wonder why you had to lose anything at all or why you had to have the experience at all to get to where you are.

You feel the difference in yourself and you see it in the other people who shared the event with you.  There was nothing you could do but let the change happen.

If all of us change when an event in life occurs then it stands to reason that a family that experiences the same event at the same time will change also; the whole dynamic will shift while each person adapts and changes individually.

Some families get closer, uniting together, finding their way together. My husband’s did.

Other families tear slowly apart.

Mine has splintered.

I come in from outside to survey the progress of our home renovation in the light of day.  I walk carefully over the remaining bits of broken drywall that had escaped the cleanup yesterday and down the hall into the demolished family room.  I am amazed at what was uncovered and is now clearly in view.   There were a few electrical issues that needed attention and some new walls that need to be put in place.

Removing the insulation revealed more than I expected.

I return to the kitchen to blog on the dining table which has now become my office.  I want to blog about my father.

I wonder if the air has touched my siblings and sparked a memory too. I suspect, even though we are changing, that they are remembering him as well; with every leaf that falls and with every breath of autumn air.  I suspect they are thinking of their own special moments that they shared with our father. He had a way of making everyone feel that they were his favourite.  I know they still cry when they think of him.  I know they still stare off, in the car stopped at a train or in the quiet of the evening and remember the time they spent with him.

We are all changing and walking down different roads; some are running down them in the opposite direction.

It happens.

Yet, I know that there is one thing that we all share, one thing that we all agree on.  That is, that we were loved by and all loved the greatest man that ever walked the earth; that we all had certain things that were unique and special in our relationship to him; that we all miss him every day.

We may be splintered but we came from the same tree.

I breathe in again and I look out the window to see the sun shining brighter.  It sparks another memory of my father standing at my front door, holding two shoppers bags. He is tapping lightly and is beaming from ear to ear. He took a chance that I would be home and stopped in for a quick visit and a cold beer.

He would have stopped in on a day just like this.  We would have talked for an hour or so about just about everything.  He would have pulled out some note paper from his breast pocket and read me the poems he had written for our greeting cards that we made ever year. I would have driven him home, stopping in at the corner store for lottery tickets on the way. He would have introduced me to the store owner again and bought me a three dollar scratch hoping that I would win.

I am grateful that my brains electric current took another route with my last inhaled breath. I’m grateful that this current found the path back to my father smiling and laughing with the little lines that framed his eyes. I am grateful that I can still imagine his laugh and the way that he smoothed the top of his head with his hand when he had something important to say or ate something really hot.  I am grateful that one memory triggers another and a flood of them come forward on a day like this; when the air is cool, the foliage is freshly tinged with red and gold and some early leaves cuddle against the white picket fence.  I am grateful for these imprints in my mind.

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  1. Cindy

    What an absolutey beautiful post…so very moving. It made me slow down today, think more deeply about my actions and how I want to care for my loved ones; how to to be more connected. You were very lucky to have such a wonderful Dad and these memories ~ imprints to treasure.

    1. Constance Stewart Meloche

      Thank you Cindy

  2. Tim Stewart

    Well said sis, very well said. As fall approaches I think of him often. Cindy is right, the memories he left us are far more valuable than any inheritance could ever be.

    1. Constance Stewart Meloche

      You are absolutely right.

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