Lost in loss

I got blind-sided a few minutes ago.

I was sitting here at my computer (recently moved to the dining room table in my mother’s home, as part of getting-ready-for-Kyle), trying vainly to compel my brain into blog mode. Rick popped over with a set of headphones he’d found. “Try these,” he said, after providing a welcome diversion by crawling around under the table to find the proper plug. “Tell me if you get sound out of them.”

I clicked into My Music and randomly selected a piece of bluegrass. Suddenly my ears were filled with the Country Gazette playing “Teach Your Children”. The quality of the headphones was incredible. Every pluck of the banjo, the guitar, the fiddle was crystal clear. I was listening to bluegrass at its finest and the sound was stunning. And then an instant later I was blasted with such a tsunami of emotion that I could hardly breathe. I sat frozen for a moment, torn between ripping the headphones off, or falling forever into that music.

When I staggered to the kitchen to compose myself, I recognised the nature of the tsunami. It was loss. These are my mother’s old headphones, which she doesn’t use anymore, as they don’t work with her hearing aids. But she has been a musician all her life, and music is one of the things that has driven and sustained her over the years. How she must have relished the high notes and low, the intricate phrasing, the complex rhythms. Now that her hearing is bad, music is not something she can enjoy with the same acuity. For a moment there, with the Country Gazette wailing directly into my being, I couldn’t live with that thought.

Music always has an emotional impact on us, and mine was amplified by a sense of my mother’s loss.

Let me add some background.

I’ve spent all week clearing cupboards, closets, drawers and storage rooms. My mother isn’t one to throw out bits of paper that have been important to her (and thank heavens, because I found every letter I or Rick or the kids have ever written to her and Dad – which means that I now possess a full record of almost everything that happened to me since I left home at eighteen). And I enjoyed every moment with the memorabilia. What a rich life she’s led! What an amazing family we have! What interesting things we’ve all done over the many years. What occupations and hobbies have fulfilled us. What a childhood I had. How many people have loved and respected my mother and father. How cherished were their children and grandchildren. How much love there has been in this family!

It was nostalgia at its finest, and there’s no doubt nostalgia does play a fine role in our lives. But I suppose this week of handling, sharing, reorganising and disposing of tens of thousands of pieces of paper, photos, books, furniture, trinkets and treasures, has taken its toll. The dark shadows that linger at the edge of the sweet memories are all about the loss of those people and times.

I can’t think of a single thing this all has to do with co-housing or retirement, my supposed-to-be themes – other than that I miss my Shedders family and my dear friends back home in Australia. It might be time to be making some new memories there, without quite the attachment that comes with the family of your childhood years.

* * *

Here’s a thought: over the summer, I’ve regularly chatted back and forth by email with Australia –and generated not a skerrick of paper. Is this an improvement? What will my own children do when I’ve become disinterested in clearing out my data and they are left with kazillions of gigabytes to deal with? Would they gain anything by it if they chose to do so?

Perhaps it’s all a part of the passing of the torch in the giant human race relay.


7 thoughts on “Lost in loss

  1. G’day Heather. Thanks for what you do. I have been very superficially watching your blog since the RN article. You may have also inspired me to start blogging myself more now. Lots of commonalities. We play blurgrass with guys from Bulahdelah, are ukulele teachers in Newcastle, have just been to Vancouver, and my most recent blog may interest you. http://thesumoftheparts-music.blogspot.com.au/ Has my recent travels in the US/Canada too.

    Community is a wonderful (and tricky) thing.

    Mark Jackson

    • Hi Mark. I’ve just spent an entertaining half hour on line getting to know you a bit – highly entertaining and lots of whatchacall synchronicities there. Keep up the great blogging.

  2. Thanks for sharing this acknowledgement of family, and yours in particular, Heather. Music certainly plays into powerful emotions and specially after you’ve been stirring yours up anyway with sorting through your mother’s memorabilia.

  3. Hi Heather,

    I really enjoyed this week’s blog, even though it wasn’t a ‘proper’ co-housing theme.

    I like to hear what’s happening on your insides, especially as this stay in Nanaimo has had special challenges from what you’ve written.

    I think about Joyce at this stage in her life and how important you are to her. She has to go through this on her own, like we all do, but she knows how deep your love is and that it’s always there. It makes a difference.

    It’s so lovely having Judy back. At the same time Michael, Daniel and I formed a very sweet 3 musketeers group.

    Bush bashing today (lantana & blackberry bush poisoning, tree planting, burning pines, and fertilising trees). We’re all rooted, and time for sleep soon!

    XO Eve

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. I am not up to the task of speaking to the main theme of this post, but on whether the memorabilia will survive, I’m in doubt. Apparently, the British Museum put the millennium-old Domesday Book on optical disk at the dawn of the computer age, only to find that the technology became obsolete within a few decades. The thousand-year-old paper version was still readable – the e-copy was not. Closer to home, we find the digital photos we took more than a decade ago are somehow untraceable – HD crashes, or poorly-managed upgrades, or just bad management have lost this recent family history. And yet I can easily put my finger on the album of photos I took with my first Brownie over 50 years ago!

    Even though our every tweet is being logged in the Library of Congress, and our every thought recorded at NSA HQ, I suspect that most of our binary trail will disappear under mountains of irrelevant bits. It will just be too onerous to find the gold amongst the digital diarrhoea. My own late mother’s PC sat around with no peripherals for several years, and was finally recycled after wiping the hard drive. Who will ever know what was on it besides the shopping lists, countless jokes & Internet hoaxes, and years of tax returns?

    So perhaps our children will not have the same experience of going through the old shoebox of love letters. (Or perhaps their children – since my old love letters are still in that shoebox in the closet somewhere.)

    • It’s a conundrum! – It’s also interesting that I have no letters from us to Mum and Dad (recording our lives) since we started sending emails and conferencing sometime in the nineties. Perhaps those emails exist somewhere but as you so clearly depict, they’re no longer accessible. And would I want them if they were?

  5. Back from Dallas last night… Good time in spite of the 100 degrees weather…. Thanks for another grand sharing/// You are loved. Will phone.your Mom later///

    S111 from Windows Mail

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