Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19: Agony of Memory, Painful Remembrances, Haunted

And Ives?  For his part, he did not like to be away from [Annie, his wife] and yet seemed to enjoy his excursions upstate alone, now and then, in the winter.  The harshness and the monasterial nature of the place much appealing to his purgatorial side.  The days would go by, Ives occupied by his work, the evenings desperately lonely.  He would have a drink or two,  put on some upstate public radio station that played 1940s music, the mellow voice of Roy Rogers crooning some cowpoke song; or there might be a Bach oratorio on another station and he would sit by the fireplace listening, the choruses rising, and suffer in the wondrous agony of memory.

Such a strange expression--"the wondrous agony of memory."  I chose the above paragraph simply for those five words.  Ives is a haunted man.  He still loves his wife, being away from her making him "desperately lonely."  Yet, Ives can't be with just her; he always brings the memory of their dead son to breakfast, dinner, bed, church.  He can't go for a walk or stare at a Christmas tree without being joined by some ghost.  That is the wondrous agony of memory.

One of my best friends visited my sister in the nursing home yesterday afternoon.  My friend described my sister as being "really weepy."  "She feels forgotten," my friend said, "like nobody thinks about her."  After talking to my friend today, I did think a lot about my sister.  All the things she's done for me and my family.  And how she's sort of a ghost right now.

I don't mean that she's on her deathbed.  I mean that she resides in a painful place of memory.  The happy remembrances of her are overshadowed by her current situation.  My family is great at denial.  Rather than face difficulties head on, we prefer to hide from them.  During the week, if I see my father and ask after my sister, his answer always consists of two words:  "The same."  As if that somehow encapsulates everything.  How my sister throws up every time she eats.  How she can't even get out of bed by herself.  How she spends all day staring at the ceiling or walls of her room.  The same.  And everybody accepts that answer.

Perhaps, constant reader, you're tired of hearing about my sister.  I apologize for that.  But, you see, like Ives, I'm a little haunted presently.  Every day I go to work, I visit the surgery center my sister used to supervise, talk to people she used to manage, stare at the door to the office she used to occupy.  My sister is with me all day.  I can't get around that.

Maybe, a year from now, when my sister has healed, come home, resumed her life, I will not suffer this agony of memory.  That's my hope and prayer.

In the meantime, you're all going to have to put up with Saint Marty's ghost stories for a while.


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