People become old.
People who partied and laughed and danced and sang now creak and shake, the façade crumbling and drooping under folds and sags. Their eyes crinkle under furrowed brow as they try to remember that elusive little detail – that name, that place, that ‘you remember when…?‘
I look at photos. Photos I only took a few years back – only that can’t be right, because my grandmother has been gone – oh 11 or 12 years now, and my son – the one who finishes high school next year – looks back at me as a toddler. He wears the cutest haircut and has that lower lip pout that toddlers have. His arms reach around his great grandmother’s chest as he hugs the matriarch he met but twice. She holds him with one arm and she looks into the camera with a steady gaze, but there, there in that gaze I see her watering eyes and I recall her mind stretching for that elusive name, the name of her great grandson. She smiles at the camera because she knows that familiar, she knows the camera.
She knew the camera but she barely knew me, the girl she helped raise for 20 years.
I sort through music. Like most people, I am drawn to the tunes of my heyday. As I sing and sort, someone says “What’s Shirley doing?” and someone else says “Oh, she off sorting through those oldies again” and I sense, but not see, their collective eye-roll. Oldies? I looked again. Nope, nothing from the 50’s or 60’s here. Just good solid 80’s wonderment. I snort in retort – then I hear “that was 30 years ago. And she was 16 then”.
Who knows where the time goes? Is there some type of time bank somewhere?
I imagine a big old piggy guarded by Father Time. The sands slip into that big old piggy’s belly as he gets fatter and fatter absorbing days, hours, minutes. He smiles at the images of happy people, celebrations of life in each grain of sand. He looks beyond watery eyes and behind memory fog and sees ‘it’. He sees births and death, marriage and baggage. He sees dream and hope and ambition and pain and disappointment.
I like to think that when people find themselves at the end of their cycle, they slip through that piggy on their way to wherever. As they slip through that fat old swine they gather the sand they left behind. They gather the smiles and the laughter. They gather the names and faces and the joy and wonderment from all the people they have touched as they lived their journey. All that’s left in the piggy are the grains of tears, sadness and hurt. The grit of anger, the dust of pain. The piggy, he takes all that discarded sand and he recycles it into new sand, waiting to be gathered by Father Time in preparation for someone’s new beginning – cleansed, fresh and pure white, handed to the Sandman ready to pepper new dreams of new souls in new lives.
At the end of my life, I want to sift through the sands of that fat old piggy. I want my last moments filled with images of faces I once knew. People smiling. People before tragedy changed the lines on their faces. While they were still able to walk and talk and speak to me and hold my hand. People who wanted to share their stories long before I understood how important it was to listen. People who know me, really know me, people who I wanted to know better but mourned as they were taken. Most of all, I want to see the faces of my family all together, reunited, those that walk now and those that walked before. I want to gather up all those memories and make sure that they are the last things I know in this life.
Then I will be ready to let go.