Note: After my 2nd reading, I think this post may become part one of something more.
I have finally reached that point in my life where I have come to understand that not everything can be understood. On the surface what I mean by this is that we are surrounded by so much information about so many things that it is sometimes almost impossible to discern what is fact or what is fiction. Many times what we think we know about a certain subject is a subtle blend of both. Not always, but it seems in many cases this is certainly true.
On a much deeper level however, what I am trying to say is this principle seems to hold true about our memories of past events in our lives. While some are likely set in stone, many seem to be a bit foggy when it comes to the actual event coinciding with our memory of it. As we age it seems that memories seem to alter themselves to what we thought happened rather than what actually took place.
For instance, when I was young and growing up in Port Huron, Michigan, I remember asking my father for a ride into town. From where I lived on Mason Avenue, this meant about 3 or 4 miles if memory serves. His answer was that I didn’t need to go to town and again if memory serves, my unspoken answer to him was, “You don’t really know what I need!” It was at this point that I began to hitchhike into town to meet my friends. We are talking about the early to mid-sixties here so it was a much kinder and gentler world in which we lived. Not many would be killers roaming the streets in search of that rebellious kid just looking for a ride into town.
This memory is significant because I didn’t always get a ride and my walks around Port Huron and its outlying environs are the stuff of legend in my mind’s eye. As I remember, walking was my way of processing my life and the only way I could truly feel at peace. I would often walk until I was tired enough to come home and read or fall asleep. My nighttime dreams of this time are sometimes visualized as a cartographers map which includes a ground level Google map version of the same. I seem to be in the picture and at the same time looking at myself in the picture. I am sure that some of these walks at night I actually took and some are just my imagination: a further embellishment of what actually happened. Yet the dreams (memories) are precise and full of detail and feeling. There is mystery and intrigue and a sense of purpose that is deja vu to the tenth degree.
Sometimes we purposely add to or subtract from our memories and after several years of this can’t remember what was reality and what was our added fiction. Instead of that strikeout in game five of your Little League playoffs, you remember the home run in game one and your memory of that particular game becomes positive instead of a blended negative.
Just the other day my memory was jogged in another familiar/unfamiliar way. A Facebook connection reminded me of a double date to a prom in 1967 that we were part of. She said she had a picture and offered to send it along. Suffice it to say, when I saw it, I can’t say that I remembered the person I looked to be at that time. My visage was gaunt and distracted in a way that I can only say was disconcerting. I was distant with a cigarette between my fingers. I can’t say I remember the night the picture was taken but do remember some of what was unfolding around me at the time. A stormy period if there ever was one.
I guess the point here is that the past is really the past. Fact or fiction, it existed in another time and space from the one we live in today. We have been shaped by the events we have lived through, for better and for less. But in the end, we need to live in today, be thankful for the past and look towards a future that will accommodate the person we have become. Dreams will come and dreams will go: a mixture of fact and fiction, like it or not. In other words today is all that we have, so make the most of it.