I am, evidently, curating my life. But the older I get, the less I imagine being able to revisit all the things I saved to look at when I am older. That is a paradox. Do I imagine I will forget my life? The momentous occasions? I was just cleaning house and found saved magazines and newspapers from George Harrison’s death.
I have two stored boxes of print mementos in a closet—Mt. St. Helens,
an earthquake in Hawaii the day after I arrived (having escaped the swarm of aftershocks here during the 94 quake), Hawaiian newspapers on 9/11 (we were in Oahu), and the last edition of the legendary Herald Express newspaper that my dad read every day. Am I afraid I won’t remember these events? Are they part of who I am? Why do we want to relive events anyway? Do they give us a chance to see who we are now? We calculate the distance between years and between us now and us then?
I wonder if my mom had lived if I would have let her remember things for me, at least until some typical midlife searching. Then I could have asked her about things, things that impacted my life. Maybe losing her so early made me both mother and daughter. Maybe losing her so early made me fear that anything can vanish suddenly—or explode. The world changes in a second. Maybe Mt. St. Helens and earthquakes and George Harrison’s death are just like mom’s death. Maybe they are mom’s death. Maybe I collect reminders of shock. Trauma. Disaster. Loss.
Maybe I was afraid I would forget her. I don’t remember the corporeal Helen. I remember Marleen as if she were in the room right now, but not mom. Mom is more of a cellular memory, part of me but not visible. She is a niggling physical sensation, a suggestion of someone. She is on the tip of my tongue.
I threw away some old notes from Marleen’s ill days just before I wrote this. Notes I wrote when helping her find a psychologist to get her through chemo. I thought maybe I should let go of them since they can no longer help her. But they were my scribbled handwriting, written then, so they kind of are then. They kind of are her. I must be afraid I will forget her too.
Proof. I am saving proof… of what was, and what was lost.