My father, on the other hand, never grew old. I remember when he was 71, still acting and looking younger than his years. In the pink, as he would say. Quick, purposeful strides, twinkling eyes, friendly smile. He had gone bowling the week before entering the hospital for what we all thought was a routine prostate examination.
Not old, not old at all.
I mean, they still had plans, he and my mother: Move to Florida, live out their days in the sun, on those beaches. It would be like Belmar, year-round, with relatives and friends nearby. Maybe, a chance to grow old together, move past the bitterness, the shrill, never-ending arguments that had assailed their relationship for so long.
Maybe old age would have insisted on a truce.
I didn't expect cancer, so far advanced. I don't think anyone did.
No one thought he would die within the week.
That there'd be no time to forget...
Maybe memory lies. Or maybe it just serves a purpose now, to support a meaning chosen in the present, for the present, as a kind of last resort.
Here's how I look at it. My father was rational, consistent, easygoing in the American world; my mother feared it. Still, they built a life together. One way or another. This way or that. Overcoming the odds against their troubled pairing.
Inevitably, the results of their aspirations, choices and efforts informed the circumstances of my childhood, and that of my siblings.
It seems to have turned out well. My two sisters and my brother are upstanding members of the community. Loved and loving. Respectable. Respected. We have families of our own. There's children, grandchildren. Smiles and tears.
As far as I can tell, all happily woven into the American canvas, this time, these times...
These are keepsake boxes. Their task is to provide safe harbor for precious cargo, those tangible bits of existence that carry special meaning, that conjure the past.
Protected in here.