Sometimes the thing or things that we want most in life, insights into our parents and family, wisdom and visits from beyond the grave, are not tangible. I, too, had all the letters my mother had carefully saved that my father wrote her while overseas while he served in WW II. I also waited for the right time to read them. It seemed somehow an invasion into the intimacy of my parent's lives, but months after my father's death (my mother had been gone for years) I began to read them in chronological order. I haven't finished them and I may never finish them.
Not because of some awful truth or overwhelming sadness, but because of the temporal nature of those words. As Linder Asher so wisely stated, "Language isn't enough!" I would give this advice to others and maybe even my own family about words that linger around the harddrives and blogsphere after we pass...THIS THINGS WERE SAID IN THE CONTEXT OF THE MOMENT! When I read my father's thoughts on the petty indignities of his deployment, I was reading something that passed between them. As he talked of the lack of privacy, colds, and poor food, I realized that I have no context to relate to them. I wanted amazing insights on war, courage and life, but I got compliants about spam and bedding. I have since wondered if I should have even read them as they gave me only a glimpse of the unhappiness and loneliness of my father in a troubled world and time. I longed for some time to be able to read my mother's letters, but I know now that they might disappoint, as well.
My father's letters didn't capture his dry wit, his love of magic and the supernatural, or his intellect. Words do fail us, as Terry and Krista both note. Like in the making of the mosaic, it is the areas between us that make the differences. It is not what my father said or even the intend of his words in letters or words spoken to me in the anger and fear of his illness and aging, but it is the action that I take with his legacy. Do I ponder on the hurt and disappointment of my relationship or my father's relationship with my mother or do I take the lessons from our relationships and the lessons from his with my mom and use them to make my life and my children's better in some way?
What I have learned and regret is that I should have spent more time talking and listening to my parents and their stories. I can recall only a few such precious visits with my mother as the person she was melted into a person with dementia who lost her words. My father and I had a contentious relationship that grew harder as time went on. I treasure the pleasant moments between us now. We have our memories and photos and puny words to recall those who have died, but it is up to us to elaborate on their accomplishments and importance. I only have the traces and edges of their lives and words, like the outline of a fallen sparrow trying to fly through to the other side on my window. It is far too little, but it is there.
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