“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.

Categories: Family, Gallery, Garry Armstrong, Personal, reflection, Relationships

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44 replies

  1. Garry, thank you for this. The feeling of living in another country with closed borders touches a nerve both public and private/personal. Publicly I think of “By the willows there, we hung up our lyres” when they said, “sing us one of the songs of Zion [America]. Yesterday IS another country from today, and somehow we can hope and act in ways that open the windows and the borders to a better America, a better world. But right now . . . . On the personal level, your memory of your experience with your mother strike a chord of similar memories as a son with my father and mother, and as a pastor at the bedsides of those with dementia or suffering the ravages of terminal illness. Over time, the meaning and feeling of the memories become clearer. And in the end, the mind alone cannot know what the heart knows. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gordon, thank you for the reblog. As we grow older and lose family and friends with regularity, we have to learn how to grieve. As you know, it’s easier said than done.

      Although I’ve been retired for 15 plus years now, my TV News celebrity is still out there albeit dimmer. So, people still engage me in conversation, sharing their joys and sorrows. I try to make their day a little brighter.
      It’s the least I can do and it always makes me feel a little better.

      Thank you again for reblogging this piece.


      • My pleasure to reblog this. I just reblogged another piece by an author who is new to me. It bears some similarity to Yesterday Is a Different Country in that it, too, is highly self-reflective and so spot on. Thank you, Garry! Keep writing. Keep speaking the truth. Keep the torch lights burning!


  2. Reblogged this on Views from the Edge and commented:
    Garry and Marilyn Armstrong are “friends” we’ve met through the blogosphere. This piece by Garry seemed well-suited for the Views from the Edge readership.


  3. I’ll do it with tea and sympathy.


  4. No plans as of yet. Yours is the best offer I’ve had in years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m yours!!
      Years from now when you talk about me — and you will — please be kind.


  5. We all seem to have emotional issues to one degree or another. I certainly can understand your reluctance to express your feelings. For years, I held back until one day I thought, “What am I saving it for? So that they can write on my tombstone, ‘She saved it’ ?” I realized that I needed to give people their flowers now, to let them know how much I loved them. Once that border was crossed, it got easier to express those emotions. You have a lot of love to give,Garry, and now is the time. If not now, when? Next month, if I live that long, I’ll be 90 years old, and old time, it is a-flying. Let’s keep in touch more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to save for a rainy day. One day, I looked up and it was pouring. I’m only 70, but I’ve had a long run of serious health issues, so while I wouldn’t mind living to a ripe old age, I’m not going to wait to find out. Garry is better than he used to be. I don’t think he’ll ever be extremely sociable but he is a long way from where he started … and I’ve known him for for more than 50 years … which is a long time, even when you say it quickly.

      Ninety is a great age and you’re still going strong. I love your writing and you are an inspiration to both of us.


    • You’ll be 90 years young!! I’ve so much enjoyed your life stories. We’ll definitely keep in touch more. Any plans for the big 9-0??

      I can be your boy toy.


  6. Very nice, Garry. I love to read others’ perspectives on dealing with the past. I began an early childhood memoir last year, finally ready to share a horrific childhood out of a powerful feeling of purpose and obligation. Until now, I don’t believe I’ve ever had the objectivity or emotional fortitude, or understanding of how others benefit. And I have my closed borders, too. I love the idea that it’s a choice to dip your toe in when and where ever.
    Love this blog. Glad to discover it.
    Peace and love,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Celeste!
      I’m glad you found my piece. I think now that I’ve opened the border to some of the darker stuff, I may write a little more about things I’ve kept secreted away. It’s nothing shocking but I’ve chosen not give it “play time” on the turn table of old hits.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing, Garry. There are things we would all like to leave behind the closed borders. Things that are hard to think upon, let alone share. We really are all in this together. Thinking of you and my memories beyond the borders. Blessings. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Garry for sharing such personal thoughts and feelings. We all grieve in different ways- I have learned that only through my own grief and realizing my reaction to loss is so different from how others handle it. We each have our own perspective, our own memories. This was very touching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Daily. I’ve always been able to put my feelings into writing. I enjoyed doing “feature” news pieces. Stories that focused on ordinary people, lives that didn’t attract headlines. When you elevate the lives of folks trying to make ends meet, you give purpose to what might seem mundane. Many people grieve silently without any support. There is a myth that I retired with a golden parachute and have millions socked away.

      I hope that sharing some of the more personal moments cuts through the myth of the TV News reporter.
      It’s not always about printing the legend.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We all deal with our grief in our own way, Garry. I took my mother’s death terribly hard. My father instantly became our problem because she died before him. I remember her comment about when my grandmother was about to die…….”we live too long”. Sometimes I think she’s right.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Leslie. Yes, we all deal with grief in our own way. As I mentioned in a previous reply, I saw a lot of it during my professional years. It was a daily ordeal. I dreaded the words from the assignment editor — “We have a ________(fill in the number of victims) homocide, Garry. It’s yours. Give it YOUR touch. Talk to the family, get pictures, make it personal”. I was cursed with my ability to empathize with the victim/s loved ones.
      People would invite me into their homes as if I was a family member and share their grief. I didn’t like myself much for being able to elicit their trust. But I thought — better me than someone else — totally without conscience.

      Now, I’m focused on Marilyn. I still have my two younger Brothers and some cousins. My world is much smaller and I try to deal with things on a day to day basis.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It is sometimes easier to close the borders than to recall what happened in earlier times. I choose not to think of it much, but there is no forgetting I was watching a replay of President Obama’s first inaugural speech when the phone rang. Mom had passed away. I felt guilty for not going that day, but she seemed to be doing so much better two days earlier. In truth, she was 88 and had gone as far as possible. She had been failing for months and three was no fixing her problems. There were no tears to shed or more to say. That was all yesterday in another country, and the borders were now closed.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Love those wedding photos, truly.

    It sometimes can be hard to remember the good stuff when you are still a-swirl in the sad stuff. One seems to overwhelm the other, almost like your conscience is nipping at you, reminding you, “yes but…”

    Every life I can think of is complicated by love, loss, family, and change. Focusing on the good stuff, the good memories, does help. The PollyAnna in me (the one Im trying to keep from stringing colored lights across your ceiling) keeps saying, yes, it’s hard to lose a parent that way (my mother died the same way, utterly lost, helpless) but think of all the joy you had with your mom and your dad when they were alive.

    I envy you that good life you had with them. All we ever are, is memory, choose to remember the good parts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Judy. Yes, the wedding pictures are story book stuff. Growing up, I never really thought of my Parents as young people. They were Mom and Dad. They didn’t show much outward affection towards each other, at least not what we saw. You can guess how that impacted me.

      Growing up as an avid movie goer (with Mom) offered a contradiction. She was a different person when we sat in the dark watching all those films from the golden age of Hollywood. I always had a hard time switching from reel life to real life. My imagination ruled a lot of my activities.

      I’ve absorbed the loss of loved ones like the stoic hero from those old movies. I cry openly when we lose our furry kids. That’s easy grieving if it makes any sense.

      The pieces I write about my professional life are usually easy because I’m remembering good times. I focus on time spent with legendary people because those WERE wonderful events. I sometimes worry that I sound like I am name dropping. I don’t mean it that way. I’m just sharing what I think were memorable events.

      I rarely write about the tragic things I’ve seen. Trust me, there have been many. Some of my peers write books about tragic events. It sells, deepens their pockets and brightens the limelight. It’s not for me. Not a moral judgement. I just don’t need to relive those dark moments.

      Yes, memory is what we have. It’s our living history. I’m grateful for all the good stuff I’ve witnessed.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The last picture says it all, though your parent’s wedding pictures are wonderful. Such borders are only crossed when we are ready and willing to travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Can I use a cliche, Garry, and say I feel your pain? My mom died of complications brought on by her dementia. She was diagnosed in late 1999 and died December 11, 2001. That is the only good that came from her particular end, it was quick. Still, at the end she knew none of us and lost the ability to talk or feed herself, or do any of the many things we take for granted. My sister died of cancer from smoking at age 59. My father died in 2015, just shy of 93. Lynn and I married in 2012, not knowing how long we have but wanting to spend it together. It scares me to think I might outlive my wife. If I have to, I hope it is only by a day. A week would be too long.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Emilio, thanks so much for sharing. We could be kindred spirits in many ways. I didn’t marry until 1990 when I was 48. I’d known Marilyn since 1964 but it would take decades before I’d take a chance because I was scared of emotional commitment. As a TV news reporter, I was a celebrity. Another person. I delved into the deepest sections of other lives with ease. I could always hide behind my TV celeb persona. I could be genuinely compassionate without exposing myself. However, over the years, the weight of all those tragedies would weight heavily on me. You can’t share someone else’s pain without feeling it yourself. There are a lots of people in the news biz who can fake it. I couldn’t. Forgive me for digressing.
      I try not to think about Marilyn leaving me first. I’m still not good about showing my feelings for her. But I would be utterly lost without her.
      Hey, let’s change this subject — how about sports??

      Liked by 1 person

      • We can’t change the subject Garry.., we’ve all been there in one way or the other, and may visit again. I also watched MY mom slowly fade away from reality. We had moved Mom and Dad to New Jersey to, at least, be near my baby sister. Unfortunately, I was in Arizona and Dr. Anne was in Texas. Mom sort of knew me but she placed me in settings of the past like Brooklyn or Long Island. She referred to me by name but asked me to do things that I couldn’t because we were no longer in the house she remembered. She looked at me but I got the feeling she was looking more through me.., past me. Very sad circumstances as she was the source of strength in my life.., now I was faced with surviving on my own. Dad was not far behind and passed away 1 year later. So, here we are.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hate to admit this, Garry, but I’m not much on sports. I played baseball and football when growing up, and loved following the 49ers and Giants But from college on, I seem to have lost interest. I’m sure Marilyn knows how you feel about her without having to give her reassurance every day. You can hear it in her writing!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Emilio, I was just kidding about sports. It could be ANYTHING. I’m not depressed — I just wanted to open the door to sharing stuff that I usually keep stored inside. Hopefully it’ll resonate with others.

          Liked by 1 person


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