How is that for a Sci-fi title? Too bad this isn’t sci-fi but rather and sadly real. I am sitting outside on a park bench in the back yard, contemplating the meaning of a fact I just discovered. It has dawned on me that we reach a point in our lives where we become aware that we are standing in a room that once belonged to a house we knew but have allowed ourselves to be fooled by familiar shadows, for the house is little more than a hologram of what once surrounded us.
I find myself standing in that room now. The pillars that once propped up the shelter that protected me have crumbled under the weight of Father Time’s hand. The walls where memories were hung have disintegrated under the lashes of the wind which now blows through the remains with a cold loneliness and resounding taunting howl.
Last week I wrote of my Uncle Dave’s passing from ALS on this blog. He was buried on Monday. Today, I learn, quite by accident, (if you call googling to find someone an accident), that an old professor, whom I have been dwelling on for the last week, died in April also from ALS although he – unlike my Uncle – wasn’t a Vietnam Vet. ALS is a rare disease. The fact I knew two people who died of it in the same year is just as rare.
However, it isn’t ALS I wish to write about but the professor. I am trying to embark on a new project and I have realized in the last couple weeks how much of what this guy taught me is about to come into play. He was a quiet guy, albeit engaging with an adventurous streak, who tried to get me to change my major from English into his department at a major university. As it turns out, both his field and mine are going to work hand in hand and if it wasn’t for what I learned from him – and the top marks I got in several of his classes proved I learned a lot – I wouldn’t even be contemplating this next project.
I was fortunate to reconnect with my writing mentor a couple years before his death which as fate would have it, was 24 hrs right after my mother’s death. Now I learn that the other professor who had equal impact on my thinking died the same year, from the same rare disease, as my Uncle. I had tried to find this professor a few years ago but he was overseas and so us connecting never happened. Obviously, the Fates preferred it that way.
I’m not sure we become aware of the people who are pillars, the ones who hold us steady and mold us, until we have traveled much further down the line in our lives. At the time, the foundation they pour in our lives isn’t obvious. We assume the house they provide for us to be ourselves in, to explore possibilities, mostly importantly to learn, will always be there. It isn’t until time takes it toll and they are gone that you realize you are standing in a room by yourself, alone with vivid memories slowly being tainted by the withering elements surrounding you.
Sentimentality can set in if you allow it but concentrating on the hologram image of a house that no longer exists will only keep you from finding your way out of the ruins you once knew so well. Then again, you can summon the courage to go forth to build a new house, a new legacy with its own mortality, but if doing so, remember to carve not only your initials but the ones of those who taught you into the foundation stone. That house will one day appear as a hologram, but the people responsible for it were very real.