passing

part of: Statement of Belief

by Jeff Beardwood

One of the most profound events in my life was the passing of my grandmother seven years ago. The letter that follows, reflective and nostalgic, was written only a few weeks after her death.
The process of mourning taps into the very root of our memories. Those feelings of loss creep into every facet of memory, bitter and sweet. All remembering is holistic, involving happiness and regret. Any look back is, unavoidably, a look into the future.

So like the view through a funhouse mirror, join me in looking back at myself.

Old Friend:

When I was staying back in the old home town recently, I went for a long walk. It turns out I covered more years than miles.

I had an urge to stroll through the new subdivision on Scotland road behind your old house and then into what was left of the bush. I thought it might be sad, but to call it somber might be more accurate. I did some writing that night and looking back I think I was feeling more nostalgic than a twenty-five year old has a right to feel.

The worst blow was that our fortress turned clubhouse is wiped out. They have left Smiling Pool alone so far (until I found that I was a little disoriented). That gas pipe is still leaking and there is a big willow that’s taken over the far bank of the pool where it slopes up.

I kept thinking, “if only they had asked us about landscaping when they designed this subdivision”. They left meaningless clusters of trees here and there. It would have been so easy for them to give people backyards worth buying—a cluster of mature spruce trees that once represented a zoo; or a little further down the hill a single apple tree made for climbing with the biggest wild apples ever known; or a maple where the big kids had a tree house; or a cedar grove where a huge, hideous, red-brown-matted fur, blind-in-one-eye dog materialized to play one afternoon when no one knew enough to be afraid; or another cedar where an owl used to sleep forever.

There was one lot I might like to take another look at in five or ten years. For now it’s a nice corner lot that’s going to overlook ‘hunt’. When they get a structure on it I’ll have to take another peak.

***

During my walk I met a young boy—couldn’t have been more than twelve. Me. I couldn’t have been more than twelve at the time.

I wanted to tell him to save his pennies so he could buy this bush. I knew he had talked about it with his pals. Then I thought better of it—I knew the turns his life would take and that ‘land owner’ was not his most likely future. I didn’t want to tell him that either, this boy who built log cabins and created economies for play. He believed he could do anything; and he was right.

Instead of dashing his hopes, relieving him of his greatest weapon, I told him what he needed to know in a different way.

“Never forget this place and what it represents.”

“If you are me you know I can’t. You haven’t, or you wouldn’t be here.”

“I’ve been dusting off old memories lately…seeing what I have stored away. I might have rediscovered this one too late.”

“Why?”

“Because in my time, they’re tearing it down.”

“What’s over there?” he asked pointing over my shoulder.

“That cliff where we used to crazy carpet,” I told him without looking.

“And the other side of Smiling Pool?”

“The second zoo.”

He smiled at me, glad to be both younger and wiser than I am now. “And in ten years, if I ask you…if you ask yourself those same questions, will the answers change?”

“No. Because you will always be with me. You will always remember for me.” I was so happy he had taught me this thing. I wanted to teach him something, too—something that would change his life. I could think of nothing to say. I had read several hundred books, lived a million moments and made a million choices. How could I have nothing to tell him…to help him. But everything I’ve learned that really matters, I already knew when I was him. That’s what I told him.

“Trust yourself and your judgment. Don’t procrastinate. There’s a reason you’re going to like “Hamlet” so much. Don’t be too deliberate and methodical in making your decisions. It only costs you time, but like any currency its value is proportionate to demand and supply.”

He winked at me and gave a little nod yes as if storing it away for future reference. Then he turned and walked through the side of a house toward what used to be an architectural masterpiece made of an old fence and a dream.

There is a theory that if one alters the past the present will be duly changed. Yet the only sign that he was ever here is a small twinkle of hope and an expanded grasp of economic theory. Maybe one or the other of these is a significant change…

Having written a whole lot, yet having really said only one thing,

I remain,

jeff.