Lesson from a Child: Memories truly are the key to immortality


My Muse has been on an unscheduled sabbatical. For the second time, I pushed myself through a post because I felt I should write one, or I was supposed to write one — instead of writing a post that was inspired by a priceless moment between Older Dad and Younger Child.
Fortunately, I put that one on ice, where it belonged.
One of those priceless moments just happened. These occasions come upon a parent in a flash, often inspired by unexpected sources or events. For me, it can be (and usually is) a handful of light snatched from time itself.
We were headed to her weekly (Saturday morning) swim lesson at the Y. NPR on the radio generated an undercurrent of sound; the young child was describing grandiose plans for her Mother’s upcoming birthday. My little party planner was in overdrive.
My thoughts were somewhere between the radio and her chatter. So much has happened in our family lately — pain, sorrow, trying to describe major disturbances and their lasting effects on our family and the feelings that will never quite go away about losing an extremely close loved one.
A lot has happened that each of us is trying to understand and reach a sense of peace and acceptance with.
Again, how do you explain to a 6-year-old, in a way she can understand, that she will never see a favorite Uncle again? How can this child help process the grief she can’t be expected to truly grasp?
We pull into the Y parking lot and I tried to shut my brain off. The radio is still on. The host is interviewing a man who is credited with playing the first Beatles record in the United States!
I’ve always loved the Beatles. Their music truly spans generations, and continues to inspire new fans every day.
Anyway, the one snippet I grabbed was that this man (I didn’t catch his name) played the first record in February 1963. I’m guessing it might have been Love Me Do, but don’t quote me on that.
He was recalling the details. I shut off the car.
“What was that man talking about, Daddy?”
I told her he was the first person in America to play music from a great and famous band.
“When did that happen?”
“1963? Is he still alive?”
Well of course, I thought to myself. That was him talking on the radio, wasn’t it? Then I realized she hadn’t actually heard him.
“Of course he’s still alive. That was him on the radio.”
“That was a long time ago, wasn’t it? Were you alive then?”
I told her I was 5 years old in 1963.
She was silent. I could tell she was processing this.
“Daddy, I love it when you tell me stories about yourself, and learning stuff about you.
“When I have grandchildren, I’m going to tell them all about you.”
“That’s wonderful — that’s how you will keep me alive. That’s how people truly live forever.
Äs long as you live in someone’s memory, that memory keeps you alive.”
I resisted the urge to push the point further. Thee was no need to.
She was saying — consciously or unconsciously — that she was beginning to understand …
There was no need to elaborate.
This whole conversation took less than a minute, the time it took us to walk from the car to the front door of the Y.
Little did she realize that her words would always stay with me: a reminder of my own mortality — and immortality.