The Essence of Recollection


Baltimore writer Marion Winik knows from experience what neurobiologists are now understanding at a cellular level:  Memory is fluid and is subtly changed by each act of recollection.  Dig this, from her splendid work, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead.  

The Driving Instructor, d. 1985

"How many poems can you write about your father? Maybe one for every day of your life. Your father is the poem inside you when you wake up in the morning, the poem like a spine, shaping how you stand and sit, the poem with you on the toilet, the sink, the coffeepot, the poem that leans back into the driver's seat and spins the steering wheel with one practiced hand. Turn left. Left goddammit. For Christ's sake, learn to drive. Anger, forgiveness, duty, money, jokes, your father is the chairman of all these departments. We used to say, remember what an asshole he could be, but now we can't remember that anymore. What's left is the assholes we are. 

Whole religions were made up so people could see their father again, and you don't have to be Jesus or Abraham Lincoln to have your actual biography dwarfed by your never-ending story in other people's heads. A thin gruel of memory thickened with everything that's happened since. Twenty-two years out you can hardly taste the stuff you started with but you just keep stirring, stirring, and putting the spoon in your mouth. Every day there is another thing he never saw: my children, my books, my houses, my aging face, the sweet little dog we have now, the latest morons in Congress and the NFL. The things I learned and the things I never have been able to. My disappointments, which would have disappointed him as well, so I might have hidden them. In dreams my father is sitting at the kitchen table, young and smooth-jawed, looking suspiciously like my teenaged son. The phone rings, he answers it, Hey Daddy, it's me. And look at this, still he gives the phone to my mom."

 © David J. Linden 2013