One of my big struggles emotionally is the feeling of dread at the idea of forgetting things. And I don’t mean like, “where are my keys?”
I mean forgetting the big things…
The important things.
History is terribly important to me… Having some clue about how we got to where we are and not forgetting where we’ve been. So I read history books. I watch documentaries. My writing even drips with it.
But it’s also important to me on a personal level.
I want to compile video, photos, documents, stories, articles of clothing, writing, whatever… Just so I don’t forget.
The other day, for some random reason, I thought to myself: I don’t remember feeding my youngest daughter Brooklyn when she was a toddler.
I mean, I have beautiful memories of her from those years, but I don’t remember ever feeding her.
And it about broke my heart.
I have all these wonderful memories of times that her older sister Natalie and I would spend together when she was in her high chair. We would listen to music and laugh and joke and I would feed her and it was an event. I introduced her to new foods, and when she was that young, to my shock, she liked most of them. It was a beautiful, beautiful time.
And I can’t remember one single time doing that with Brooklyn.
I know that I did... I just can’t remember it.
Which makes me mourn for my grandparents all the more.
I recorded some video of my grandmother on my mom’s side telling her story about a year before she passed. We barely got through her teen years and quit for the day.
I never went back and filmed any more.
I had the time; I just didn’t do it.
Now, in that last year I spent many hours with her. I comforted her, held her hand, and listened to her stories… but I didn’t take them down. I didn’t preserve them.
And now I’m gripped with guilt.
Is her story is lost?
How did she meet my grandfather?
How did they decide to emigrate to the U.S.?
What was her first impression of New York?
When did she start feeling like she belonged in America?
What did she think about Miami the first time she saw it?
Had she ever had mango before that?
How did she feel about the Vietnam War?
Thousands and thousands of questions I want to ask her.
And that goes for all of my grandparents.
I’ve got memories. I remember stories they told, but how accurately I can remember is a giant question mark.
In mulling over these things the last few days, I think I realized that my struggle to remember is ultimately a struggle with my own mortality. I want to remember because I want to live and I want these things, these people, to live on.
But you know what? We don’t.
We die. And even before that we forget.
And that’s okay.
It’s part of the human experience.
And even that is beautiful, because we are human.
I don’t have to remember the details to know that I have loved and loved deeply, and that’s the important part.
I might not remember all the things my grandmother told me, but they still have played their part in making me who I am.
I may not recall specifically those early dinner times with Brooklyn—and neither will she—but they still happened.
I still loved her well.
And that will live on in her and she will pass that down to her own children some day.
So I have started to come to grips with this idea: