If we take a moment to examine our lives we start to see, beneath the life changing events, beneath the small moments, and beneath the trials and celebrations are the people that tie it all together and helped weave our tale. As poor as my memory is I remember well the many people who helped (ahem, and hindered) my being where I am today. And while some days I ask myself what that means, for now, it means that I am still here.
For some reason last week I decided to try, for the umpteenth time, to reach out to someone that in many ways saved me as a teenager. As a teen I went through a rough spot that most people don’t know about and I don’t really speak about but it was bad, bad, bad. As a result of nearing the bottom I ended up in a program with a teacher that helped me through that rough time. Without the friendship and involvement of that teacher I am not sure I would have made it out of my teen years. I hadn’t spoken to her in nearly twenty years but the impact she had on my life has never diminished. I haven’t been sure what happened to her for a great many years but managed to track down her old phone number and address and on a lark I called her. The last thing I expected was to reach her but I did, and we had a short but pleasant conversation but the awkwardness was obvious and it was clear that much had passed between us in those twenty years and whatever bond we had was long gone. I made the call very brief and left it at that. The point, really, was to verify she even lived there because I wanted to send her a book. When last she and I saw one another I had only put my first book out and a lot has changed since then. I had wanted to thank her for being there for me those many years ago, something I am not sure I ever did, or was in a place to do, and to let her see, sort of, what I had become. I thought a lot about that call over the past few days and it reminded me of another call I made a long time ago, to another person from my past who had meant a lot to me. I had tracked a phone number after not speaking to them for, gosh, twelve years. I just wanted to check in. It was another awkward conversation that wasn’t unpleasant but felt forced and awkward and the distance between was more than miles but years.
In both cases the conversations opened old wounds and broke my heart. Broke it because time is sometimes a parade and sometimes a funeral march and in the end they both lead to the same place. It’s not that I expect to matter to every person I meet, to mean something to every person I encounter, and to leave a hole in my absence but it’s sad to see just how differently those eyes you once knew so well will see you after years have passed you both by. And while sometimes the person forgets you because they want to, and need to but most times it’s just the way the mind and heart work. We encounter so many people, have so much happen in our lives that you just cannot keep up with everyone, and cannot keep connected and invested in everyone. Sometimes life moves us on whether we want it to or not. Humans are survivors, we adapt, and we move on.
The graveyard in my heart has grown very large and it will grow larger still the older I get. I am lucky to have known the people I have and honored for those that had positive impacts on me. Sometimes, sometimes looking back is helpful. It gives you perspective. It gives you distance. It gives you a measuring stick. It gives you closure. Sometimes though it only serves to remind you of what you have lost. Life does that enough on its own, there’s no need to help it along.
In the end I chose not to send the book to my old teacher. Instead I sent her a very short and very simple note thanking her all she did for me and for helping to save my life. Maybe it will mean something to her and maybe it won’t. It means the world to me, and to those that love me.
Some debts you can never repay.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try and, if nothing else, acknowledge what was done for you.
Even if it means nothing, it means something to you.
I write books. They are pretty rad. Check it.