Other People’s Stories

Dearest Rachel –

Ever since I mentioned the possibility of turning recordings of your voice into future conversation (and bemoaned the fact that I have more of Mohinder’s voice than yours), I’ve been reminded of recordings we’d planned – but never got the chance – to make. When Daniel was making plans to enroll at Judson in order to get his bachelor’s degree (to add to the associate’s degree he’d already received at Harper, we told your parents about it. In particular, your father offered some words of wisdom, as well as promising to support him in his endeavors. Afterwards, you admitted you wished you had recorded whatever it was he has said, because he included some stories that even you hadn’t remembered hearing. But we thought we’d have another opportunity at some point in the future.

We turned out to be wrong. The next time you saw him, it was in a Springfield hospital, where he would never wake up.

A week after that, we were both driving down to Macomb; you were busily writing your thoughts about your father and his life as we drove, since you were the only family member who could tell such stories. Such is the lot of an only child of a widow whose mind was all but gone already; this becomes your sole responsibility.

You did well with the eulogy, too; despite being afraid you would break down, you kept your composure perfectly throughout everything you had to say about him – even the story about him catching you uttering an expletive for the one and only time, and how his telling you, in an even, level tone, that he was “just disappointed in you,” was enough to get you to swear off swearing for life. In fact, the only one who ended up breaking down was me, when I invited everyone over to the house to enjoy the treats that had originally been meant for their anniversary celebration that day, and now had to serve guests for a vastly different, and less desirable, reason.

I had a different sort of breakdown over the service; since the funeral home was displaying a video tribute to your dad as guests filed in, I made the assumption that the service was being recorded. It never occurred to me to turn my phone’s microphone on, and as a result, your eulogy to your dad was lost to posterity as well.

With the one you gave for your mom, it may have been a deliberate choice. I have Twofeathers’ rendition of “Amazing Grace” in Cherokee, but nothing of what you had to say about her. Perhaps it was due to the fact that you were closer to your dad; perhaps it’s because there wasn’t much of a relationship to have with your mom once her mind was gone (although you still made sure to visit her for a week out of every month after your dad’s passing). Or maybe it was a matter of battery life on my phone, which may well have been starting to show its age already. Whatever the reason, both collections of stories no longer exist in memory, as they little more than other people’s stories to me. They weren’t part of my experience, and as such, they aren’t my memories to recall.

Those are a lot of things to regret not committing to paper or tape or digital media. And I’d made it a resolution to not make that mistake with my folks; they may be doing all right now, but the effects of time are starting to show. And since we go over there every Thursday night (to keep Mom in practice with her cooking skills, or so she says), what better opportunity to make a point of taking down their old memories than in that hour or so after the meal? Dad has gone on about a few specific work anecdotes that seem to contain a moral lesson or two, in particular; why not get these written down (or whatever method serves)? I’ve made this mistake before; why compound it by doing likewise to my parents as we did (or rather, neglected to do) with yours?

Now, I’m not going to necessarily include what he has to say in these letters, but who knows? Maybe those stories will have some lessons worth going into at some point in the future. For now, it’s a responsibility I’m giving myself to make sure these are remembered in a way that I forgot to in the past. There’s nothing to be done about the stories from those who aren’t here anymore to tell them, but while Mom and Dad are still able, I should probably take theirs down, so the same fate doesn’t befall them. Wouldn’t you agree?

So for the time being, keep an eye on me, honey, and wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

Postscript: Honey, I’d pretty much had this drafted in my mind before this happened – and considering where you are, you’re quite possibly well aware of the news. It seems another collection of stories has been lost early yesterday morning. I’m still trying to process this, but I’ll go into more detail in another letter. For now, say “hi” to Kevin for me and everybody else, will you?

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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