Tuesday, March 6, 2012
So here, as Michael Scott might say, is the deal-io. Try to estimate the number of people who have figured in your life in more than a transitory manner: The grandparents you barely knew but had to visit anyway, the kids you might have grown up with but haven’t seen in decades, the now far flung cousins who once were close. How about the boyfriends and girlfriend and lovers and mates, and sometimes even the husbands and wives we married in flash of passion and youth and divorced, a few years later, when we and they realized the relationship didn’t have legs strong enough to go the distance. The friendly neighbors who took us in when things were rough at home, the one teacher, mentor or coach who paid special attention. How many people does this make? Dozens? Maybe a hundred?
We are footnotes in each others’ lives. Not always, but more often than not. We might have been important once, but chances are we no longer cast a significant shadow, Good-bye predominance, hello post-script.
This is as it should be. Humans, thankfully, have short memories, and if we were to be burdened with the constant recollections of things past, there would hardly be time in our heads for the present and future, for the situations we must deal with today and the people we care for now.
I never knew my grandparents, for example. The family tales of their lives and exploits make for amusing dinner conversation, and the fact that my mother’s father wrote operas figures only vaguely in my life. My father’s father I met only once, he was a nice, balding man and since I had been told the gene governing hair loss passed from father to son, I probably spent a bit more time wondering about his life than I did that of the folks on my mother’s side. He’s long gone; I still have most of my hair and no longer worry about a hairless eventuality. I no longer remember his first name, which is sad but inevitable.
I do not know where my first wife is, indeed whether she’s even alive, and I am frankly uninterested in searching for her. We did not part on good terms, and I’m sure she thinks of me as often as I of her. The entire society of people we knew together—save for one or two persons—has vanished from my life.
In fact, there are more people in my past than there are in my present and even those who figure in recent events may disappear from one day to the next with or without reason. This is often sad, sometimes unexpected, rarely welcome. People come, people go, and those who governed my actions, thoughts and emotions, that small but vitally important community we all have and cherish, is as erratic as a butterfly’s flight path. Once again, this is as it should be. It is said that all relationships end in tragedy. I suspect this is true, though from some we learn more than from others. Those become the longer footnotes, the ones perhaps worth reading.