Rewind to the last time
Thrice in recent days, I’ve been struck by the gravity of the words before me.
The first occurred when I was watching an old episode of a series.
I was caught off guard before the frame froze in black and white.
The son is speaking with his father; they’d had their first straightforward talk in many a year.
“We don’t communicate well,” says the father.
“Hmm,” muses the son. “We used to, you know? A long time ago. Sometimes I wish we could rewind to the last time we had a normal father-son relationship.”
“When was that?” the father asks.
The son says it’s not a big deal as he describes a memory of a time when he was younger, when the pair had gone on a fishing trip.
“This was before mom died; you probably don’t remember,” says the son, eyes looking at his shoes.
But senior’s head tilts.
Hands on his knees, he rises from his chair and goes to sit next to junior.
Still the protestations and minimization from the son.
“Dad, it’s OK,” he waives his right hand as he shakes his head, eyes down. “I mean I…”
Senior pulls a photo out of his wallet and looks up at the stunned face of his son.
“I look at that picture every morning; it’s one of my fondest memories, too,” he says.
Memories, not romanticized or worshipped, but fondly treasured.
On Jan. 3, at 12:48 p.m., I received a text, a photo with the accompaniment:
“The only picture grandpa had in his wallet.”
A yellowed, cracked and worn small Polaroid, one of those the size you get for a passport.
Small tears on the top and right edges.
What caused those cracks?
Was this the face assigned during each call about engine problems, questions concerning education or talks on work ethic?
Why did senior in that series keep that photo close?
The pair didn’t communicate well, he said.
Spans of time between calls.
Different styles that rubbed, as junior said, like oil and water.
But always the banter, the laughs each time the pair crossed paths over the years of the show.
Always a love, no matter the distance or number of days in between.
The second time this dynamic struck me was in listening to an episode of “Fresh Air” on my way home from volunteer work.
“I think my relationship with the world and kind of how I see my life unfolding from here on out and what’s important to me and, to be honest, my relationship with death … how do I live my life in a way that will honor my death, my inevitable death?”
The speaker was reflecting on the impact her mother’s death had had on her life, her work and how she moved forward.
And I sat in my car, wondering what my relationships with death would look like, wondering what my abuelo thought about as he thumbed that crinkled and worn 24-year-old photograph.
Dr. Myles Monroe once said, “Humans don’t want to die because deep in their hearts they know that they have not finished what they were born to start… death never threatens a human who discovers their purpose.”
This was the third time I was struck by the gravity of the words.
I wonder what my grandfather thought of that black bow sitting atop that auburn hair.
I wonder if she’ll honor his death.
Janelle Patterson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.