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.
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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.