We were away this week. And by away I mean away. I completely checked out. No phone, no email, no texts, no TV, no Facebook.
Just people. Sand and seals and starfish. Card games and songs and mini golf. Lobster rolls and three different clam chowders. Bright sun and cold fog. A precious baby boy who shares my name. Family.
I was so unplugged I didn’t even take that many pictures. And it was amazing.
Maybe I didn’t check out as much as I checked in.
There was some hard stuff too. That town, that house – they are filled with ghosts for me. I stood at the same counter where I heard my dad’s last words. I walked the same stone terrace where my brother and I lay hand in hand later that night. I drove the same winding streets where we followed the ambulance for miles.
And finally I walked into the room where my father died.
I stood on the threshold just like I did that night two years ago and tentatively peered inside.
It looked different than I remembered. The bureau was sitting at the wrong angle. The walls jutted out in the wrong places. All of it was…wrong.
The funny thing was none of it had actually changed. No, apparently, it was the details which have been so clearly seared into my brain for the last two years that were wrong.
We are all guilty of living in the past. What I realized, or maybe what I remembered, was that our memory can trick us. And if we aren’t careful, it can interfere with how we see the present.
I sat in the middle of the floor and waited, studying the knots in the wood looking for some discernible pattern, some order in the chaos. But no map appeared showing me which way to go. No timeline tracing the evolution of my grief.
I’m not sure what I was looking for in that room – turmoil or peace – but what I actually found was…nothing.
It was just a room. Just a place. Just a thing that happened.
Maybe that was what I was looking for all along. What I needed was simply to prove to myself that no place, no thing, no one event has power over me.
Yes there were ghosts. But without the distractions and the noise of everyday life that usually drown them out, I noticed them. I listened to them. They followed me quietly, slipping in and out effortlessly, until they became so intertwined with the present that I couldn’t tell them apart.
On the drive home, as we came across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the light slipped through the clouds in soft streaks. Tiny spotlights illuminating pockets of the rolling water.
The map I was looking for wasn’t in the knotted pine of a bedroom floor. It was in the way the dark clouds made room for the light. In the way they could coexist.
There will always be ghosts. There will always be memories – both good and bad. But instead of pushing them away, I will make room for them. I will let them slip in and out quietly. I will let them remind me of what I was and what I have become.
I will let the past become part of the present, instead of letting it overshadow the present.
I will remember that the light will always shine through the darkness.