Memories Are Our Life Story

By: Barbara Glass | 

We all have our own story. I visualize these stories as colorful mosaics of childhood memories, education, siblings, friends, and life experiences that form us. Each design is unique, as are the stories that flow from these shiny pieces.

Time has a way of changing the stories as we age. We reflect on past experiences and see them through more mature lenses.

Sometimes a colorful piece of our memory flickers and dims, changing to a different shade—from green to gray, then to magenta.

This was my recent journey.

All of us make hard choices over a lifetime.

Some choices result in a different plotline, as in choosing to attend college thousands of miles away from where we grew up, or who we marry, or what job we decide to leave or take.

Many choices are simply a fork in the road. Either way, the story of our life is altered.

Other choices are hard breaks. Recently I lost my former husband. Should I be surprised how deeply his death affected me?

I cried many tears for him 40 years ago; why am I so sad about losing him again?

When I look in the mirror, the person I see now is older. I find myself wishing I could pull the 40-years-ago version of myself through the mirror and experience the previous ending again.

It was both harder and softer in that there was still a lot of life ahead for both of us.

Now there isn’t.

He has passed, and I am closer to the sunset than the sunrise, or even midday.

When we make choices, what we feel most deeply is what we leave behind. Sometimes we don’t realize what we left behind until years later.

Feeling the loss of someone dear is like dropping off a cliff in slow motion.

We met briefly on his front porch only days before his death and spoke of our feelings for one another. It mattered that we say these words of love.

There are many wonderful memories and three beautiful children who are thriving.

As all parents of grown children know, we must have done something right, but have no clue precisely what.

There was a lot of laughter on that porch, too.

He had a wicked sense of humor about growing older: “I think I’ll take my dog to visit the residents at the nursing home, and we’ll just stay,” he said. Time past merged with time present — funny how that happens.

As I drove home, I thought he needed my forgiveness as he faced a terminal illness. Or maybe I needed to forgive him. Or, perhaps, I needed him to forgive me.

These thoughts circled in my mind, suspended without end: No regrets, but soulful questions.   

Upon reflection, I believe my despair comes from not being part of the continuation of the story. He stayed in that small town and started a new life there. I left.

Yet, after so many years of living in that small town myself, it is still a large part of my story, too.

Perhaps he knew where he always wanted to be, and I am the wanderer? No right or wrong for either of us. It just is. My story led elsewhere, but that small town still is a respite from the big city. I still enjoy visiting and connecting with old friends. Each time the Ohio River comes into view, my soul goes, “Ahhhh.” That sense of “place” is still strong. He didn’t leave and now never will.

Leaving this place felt different this time. I knew I was leaving something behind. Memories? No, they are still intact. Nothing was left out of our conversation. It was complete.

Still, I will miss the living, shining person with whom I shared so much.

A Yankee by birth, a Midwesterner and Southerner by heritage, Barbara Glass has lived in Texas for 20 years and em­bracing all things Southwest. She celebrates aging by experiencing it firsthand, and helping the next generation along the way, including her own children and grandchildren. “I try to bring  understanding of the aging perspective within the context of community and non-profit initiatives”. Part of this engagement is writing about aging in celebratory and thoughtful ways. “I’m living the dream by telling our stories”. 

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