Learning to love them now

As our loved ones age, how do we balance the person we remember with the person they are now?

Learning to love them now

Listening again tonight to “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” It is worth a revisit. It restores feelings felt before, it offers lessons we must re-learn. In one of those beautiful moments of synchronicity, it hits upon the value of this westward trip I’m now concluding. For wasn’t the very point to revisit? To see my grandfather once more, to see friends once more? To make and learn new things, of course — but also to be reminded about feelings once felt.

That is what I can’t escape when I talk with my grandfather. Thinking of him as he was, when I should be sitting with him as he is now. I am present when we are together, at least a little bit; in a forgiving mood, I might recognize that he himself spends increasing time in the past. “I have had a good life,” he has said more than once, but in speaking so, he is not just showing gratitude, he is casting back to a better life to buoy himself. Or so it appears to me.

And who can blame him? Who of us doesn’t do the same, even with our own strength still within us? We think back to days of brilliance, trips that stirred the soul, dinners that made the rest of the world swirl away. Shouldn’t we revisit these? And shouldn’t we revisit them for others, too? Do I not honor my grandfather by calling forth — from my own mind, from his own mouth — the past stories of his kindness and joy and heroism? Isn’t this revisiting how we weave the tapestries of our own lives, how we build and shape our own narratives?

As with all things, my grandmother was here first:

“In the acts of remembering, reconstructing, recalling, reminiscing, I am actually creating and recreating something new. Here are the moments of transformation, transcendence — a crossing and climbing to a new place in our visions and perspectives on living.”

I’m now on the plane coming back to New York, four hours delayed and approaching what many have told me is a city in wintry chaos. (As of 10:00pm, there were still 40 children from the local school stuck on buses, stuck in traffic, unable to make it home or return to school. We are, as a species, and even in this modern age, so unprepared for actual Life.) It is a good time to reflect, a good time to take deep breaths — it may be recycled air in this fuselage, but then again I suppose our ideas are recycled, too. Revisiting, reshaping, relearning.

The real question that follows, then, must surely be: What will it be at the end? What is this thing we are reshaping, this Life we are revisiting and re-creating for ourselves? Will it be the Pietà? Will it be ruins?