Memorable

Lughnasa                                            Waning Grandchildren Moon

Katie slipped her hands around my arm and stroked.  Then stopped and put some pressure on.  Then stroked some more.  Katie was my birthday present from a thoughtful wife.  She learned her trade from Sister Rosalind and the Sister’s school for massage.  I’m feeling knot and kink free.  Massage clears out the mind as well as the muscles.  As Katie moved around my body, memories came flooding back.  Mom’s hands on my neck when I had polio.  The Alexandria 4-H county fair.  That afternoon in Bangkok when I let a tiny Thai woman loose on my just ruptured achilles, not knowing what it was.  Steel fingers and pain.  Lots of pain.  Then the night I stepped in the sewer grate while my body moved forward and my right foot stayed in place.  Body memories, unlocked by Katie.

Memories have a fluid, slippery existence, just like Katie’s hands as she followed the process of my spine from neck to tail.  As I write about Mom and polio, an image of stuffing tissues into hardware cloth followed.  The float for homecoming for my class, seniors at last.  Being pulled away from that by who?  I don’t recall.  Then I was in Anderson, 9 miles away, at St. John’s hospital where my mother had been taken after collapsing while serving a funeral dinner.  After that the sculpted green plastic and aluminum tubing of waiting room furniture at Riley Memorial in Indianapolis.  Mom on a gurney, now 7 days after stroke, me riding with her as they took for an operation.  She reached away from me and said, “Son.”  The last words I heard from her.  The painful early morning talk with my father, should we remove the life supports?  Yes, we both decided.  Yes.  Then the funeral.  And the days and weeks and months after where I failed to integrate mom’s death as a powerful life lesson and instead took it as an emotional blast that rocked my very foundations.

Bangkok, stumbling away from the 7-11 and the amulet stand in front of it, hurrying to get to the ATM.  Traffic making me anxious, not careful.  Blinding pain, yet running anyway because of the traffic, the cars.  All the traffic and the cars.  The night air humid as the flashing neon of Chinatown bathed the sidewalk in alternating colors, like the northern lights.

As I know, we change our memories each time we access them, so all of these events, crucial as they are to my story, may not represent the truth at all, at least not the veridical, the actual truth.  But, in a more important way, they are the most truthful of all since they are the truth that has shaped my response to all these things and the thousands more accreted over the years of my life so far.  Even my account of the massage, who knows how close it is?  Yet the feeling lingers.  Good.  Feeling.

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