I am reading a wonderful book, in fact the New York Times included Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson one of Top 10 Best Books of the year. I think books that we love do one of two things very well: show us a face of the world we never knew (or perhaps create a new one) or illustrates our commonality by letting us see reflections of our experiences in the lives of others.
In the story the father gives instructions to his son about to embark on his trip home and says he’ll “be right behind” him. Leading the son, in hindsight, to remember the moment and think:
“…and the vital question I have put to myself again and again during the time that followed is whether something happened he could not control, or whether he knew already then that he would never follow me. That this was the last time we saw each other.”
Those words caused me to remember the last time I saw each of my parents and consider how unremarkable each moment was, that if it were not for the fact of their passing, I would never remember. Yet the fact my father stood in the kitchen the night before he died making tuna fish sandwiches is something I remember clearly 26 years later. I remember lying in bed quietly the next morning listening to him shave and brush his teeth, dress and leave for his doctor’s appointment. I was being moody and did not want to talk so I never got up and said “good morning” or “have a nice day.” Only to come home after school with people at my house and my mother crying because my father had suffered a massive heart attack and died at the hospital.
My mother died three years ago and although she had been ill for years, there were no signs that her passing was imminent. I tucked her in for an afternoon nap while I went to the birthday party of a friend’s five year son. We joked and talked about plans for her to get out more visiting the senior center. I remember her so clearly saying, “I believe I’d like that.” When I returned home a few hours later she had passed away. I remember more from our conversation throughout that day than I do from the many we shared during our 40 years together.
The moment is a bookmark in my life.