Wednesday, February 22, 2006


As you pass 40, they become almost overwhelming at times. Especially when you are sifting and sorting through the clutter of decades of living.

I pulled three boxes out of storage today and started sifting through them. I am holding three photographs, a post card, and a piece of paper. Two of the photographs are of cats. Specifically, two cats, which a friend of the family gave us when I was in my mid teens. One is a jet black cat that my brother and I named "Devil", being unimaginative teenagers more interested in things other than cats for the most part. The other one is a tabby cat that my brother and I named "Brat".

Somehow, those two cats ended up living with me all over the country, from a farm in rural Louisiana to an apartment in Phoenix. Then they went back to my mother for their last couple of years. By that time Brat had arthritis in his hips. Then one day Devil just died. No reason, hadn't been sick, still was as sleek as he'd ever been and despite his advanced age seemingly as athletic as ever, just fell asleep and never woke up. About a year later, Brat started vomiting up his food and losing weight. The vet felt his tummy, and said that he had a lump, hopefully just an obstruction but could be cancer, and if it was cancer, the best thing to do was put him to sleep. She cut him open, and it was cancer. She administered more anesthetic until his heart stopped.

I remember how Devil liked to ride on my shoulders, purring. How Brat loved to sleep on my lap. They were my luck, then they were gone. Their ashes live in a small wooden box now. Someday when it is getting close to my own time I might spread their ashes on the small farm where they were so happy. By that time there will be no one but me and my brother to remember them, and they will be gone when we're gone.

The post card is from a great group of people. We basically lived in an office-warehouse space for a year, and had fun, and did great things together. I don't even remember most of their names today. Memory is the first thing to go, I guess.

The piece of paper says "Welcome backc!" It is from when I was in an auto accident that totalled my car, and I was out of commission with cracked ribs and a broken wrist for a while. Another great group of people. I left because I pined for adventure, for the big city, for everything that wasn't going to happen in the small city where I was born. I wonder what the person who'd stayed there would have been like? I will never know.

Then there is the old Rolodex. Filled with memories of people gone. My Aunt Shirley's address and phone number. She has been dead for six years now. I lived with her for a year when I moved to Houston, well, almost -- I rented a room in a house, but there was no furniture in the house so I went to my Aunt Shirley's during most of my waking hours not spent working, eating, sleeping, or studying (I never went there to eat, her food was rejected by toxic waste companies). My friend David's house and phone number. He recently sold it, finally acknowledging that he wasn't moving back to that city where I was born.

I have to go through this stuff and cull it down to something reasonable, all these memories that have piled up in boxes and photos and drawers. I guess the final cull, however, will be as I approach the end, when all those memories will be gone forever soon, and there is no more reason to keep them around to remind me of things forgotten long ago.

- BT


  1. Garrison Keillor says that we just can't remove people from our address books even if they're gone. They're not gone, you see.

    Nice, thoughtful post. Thanks.

  2. Hmmm.

    Well, I'm 35. I would say that 35 may still be young, but definitely not youthful. It damn sure doesn't feel like 19 did.

    Still, in my own ways, I've been going through these same motions lately. Others believe in haunted houses. Me, I believe in haunted people. There are no ghosts "out there," they only exist inside you, me, and everyone else. And they never, ever leave us.

    Even though I'm only 35, I'm aware that my life is half over -- and that's assuming I'm lucky. Since I'm gonna be haunted from here on out, I figure the least I can do is live as humanely as possible in the time left to me. There's much to be said for maintaining peaceful relations with one's own ghosts -- should I live to be really old, my ghosts will probably be all I'll have left.

    By the way, that was a wonderful post.

    Til further on...

  3. is it the oncoming anticipation of spring and all the new things that are coming that makes us look at the old? i am mid 40's and i have also been going through (who the heck gave me that) boxes-- and of course we are never removing people from our address books, just the memories of what we thought they were--

  4. Don't get me started. Spent a leisurely afternoon with in-laws at the clinic where mom-in-law is laid up for a few more days, playing pinochle. What I enjoy about my in-laws is they don't spend all their time talking about the past. They talk about the here and now. At another table in the lounge at the clinic, a group of four sat and chatted, loudly, and it was all about "Do you remember this guy?" and "Do you remember that guy?" I whispered to Mrs DBK that we'd get the entire family's entire life story if we stayed long enough. We practically did.

    And my dear Mimus, wait till you hit your late 40s. You'll think 35 is youthful. I imagine in ten years I'll think my late 40s youthful. Come to think of it, grey as what hair I have left may be, bad as the knees have been, I still think of myself as youthful.

    About four years ago, when my father turned 80, I asked him how he felt about his age. He said he still thought he could beat the world and still felt in his mind like he was 18. He'll be 84 in a month. He lives with my mother in God's Waiting Room, aka Florida.


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