“Yesterday is another country, all borders are closed.”
It was a wonderful piece of dialogue from “MidSomer Murders.” In the episode, Chief Inspector Barnaby is questioning a murder suspect about his whereabouts the previous day. The suspect tries to dodge the questions with thinly veiled irony. “Yesterday, Chief Inspector, is another country. All borders are closed.” Barnaby ultimately opens the borders and nails the suspect. Still, I liked the perp’s style.
As we begin the new year, many folks around the world are thinking about the events of the past 12 months. Here, in the United States, many of us think of 2016 as another country with all borders closed. We don’t want to recall the epic long Presidential campaign and its result. We’ll have to open those borders in less than three weeks with the swearing-in of the new President.
Reality bites and this time, it has fangs and claws.
Our yesterdays are always subject to border closings, depending on how we remember them. I often write about legendary people I’ve met in my professional life. Those are pleasant stories to recount.
There are parts of my past I choose not to share. Those borders have remained closed. Rich Paschall, a fellow blogger on Serendipity, wrote a touching piece about heroes and icons we lost last year. It jogged my mind to return to this piece that I began writing last week. Thanks, Rich!
A lot of the borders to yesterday are closed because we don’t want to revive the memories. I certainly don’t. They aren’t happy memories. They make me sad. I’ve never been good at handling emotions.
Someone recently wrote a Facebook piece about the pain of seeing a loved one pass away, deep in dementia. Quickly, I tried to blot out the images of Mom, whose last years were diminished by dementia. No luck. I could clearly see the woman who used to be Mom. Strike that. That’s what I was thinking in the moment, especially during the final months of her life. She was still Mom but she didn’t know me.
I struggled during those final visits. In part, I struggled because I felt guilty I couldn’t come to see Mom more often. It was a four (or more) hour drive from Massachusetts to Long Island. During the drives, my mind would fill with images of a younger Mom. I could hear her laugh and see her smile. I remembered the things we did together over the years. In my mind, I saw her wedding pictures — Mom and Dad in the prime of their lives.
By then, Dad had already been gone for five years, yet I hadn’t been able to cry for him. Now Mom was slipping away. In what turned out to be my last visit, I tried my best to reach through the dementia, to reclaim a few moments with Mom. I failed. A few weeks later, in the middle of sub teaching a high school class, the principal and Marilyn entered the classroom. I instantly knew Mom was gone.
I was the main eulogist at Mom’s funeral. I’m a wordsmith. I could see people crying and smiling as I recalled my mother’s life. My stomach was tight, but I couldn’t cry. Not a tear.
I’ve talked to Marilyn about the grieving process. She understands, but it still troubles me. I’m such a sucker for sentimental old movies, but real life is something else, something I didn’t want to share.
I’ve tried to shoebox the frailty of life. Keep the anxiety behind one of those closed borders. Marilyn will be 70 in March. I’ll be 75 in April. We have lots of health issues.
We try to enjoy each other and our life together. We feed off each other. Today, the borders are open.