Mind’s Eye

Exploring childhood territory, I pause before my grandparents’ house. In my mind I mount steps, travel rooms, haunt an interior that no longer exists. I know its texture, scent, patterns and hues, peace. Breaking the spell, I drive on.

 

 

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Ripples in Time

On Saturday morning, my husband suggests we go to an out-of-the-way farmer’s market. We get there before they open, but he says “there are things to look at” and we continue down the road. I smile and nod. I’m along for the ride.

He points out a trap shooting place where he went as a kid and reminds me of the restaurant that burned to the ground. Several miles later we pull in to a conservation area where he used to fish.

“We came here even in winter because the water was always open.”

I ask, “Why didn’t it ice over?”

“They have bubblers,” he tells me. “You’ll see.

We park and walk down a gravel road along the “ditches” as the signs call them. He gestures to a row of wooden posts sticking out of the water.

“There were docks on those where we could stand and fish on all sides.”

Bubblers, like tiny fountains, send rings of ripples out around them. “See?” He points.

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We come to a patch of soft ground and spot paw prints.

“Looks like a big dog,” he says.

“Or a cougar,” I guess.

Another set of prints is clearly a racoon.

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He spots a fish making its own set of smaller ripples at the surface, but it’s the only one he sees. No one is here fishing on a Saturday morning, a sure sign that the catfish and crappie are gone. Further on, the ditches open into the Illinois River, where Asian Carp have taken over, dangerously lowering the native species.

A concrete boat ramp sits partially out of the water, skewed at an angle.

“I think this is where we used to launch our boat.”

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As we walk back, he kicks the gravel. “We used to find arrow heads along here, but they’ve probably built this road up with trucks of gravel several times since then.”

As he leans over to point to a tiny frog, it takes off with a powerful foot-long leap into the weeds.

We pull out and head down the road. Looking back, he says, “I must have fished here a hundred times, even though it’s a long drive.”

My childhood home is a city, hours away, so I don’t often run across people and places that bring back those early memories. The manmade landscape has changed many times over in urban renewal. I tend to reminisce about people, their words and how they felt.

His stories are activities: a neighborhood wiffle golf ball tournament, playing baseball where the library is now, and burying treasure in a friend’s backyard. The locations surround us as we live mere miles from where he grew up.

My recollections are moments pinned to a timeline of my life, emotional events that shaped me, as the lead, and the other roles in my story. There are moments of precious friendship, heartbreak, grief, joy, and loss, each one complete with characters and plot, even if the setting’s space is a little fuzzy.

His stories are fixed in place, literally the locations where they occurred. Each adventure is a spot on a map of his childhood, with episodes reoccurring to him as we drive past them in the present.

Our memories of our time together are parallel. He knows when the furnace was put in, when the trees were planted, when our daughters’ cars might need service, even though they live in different states. Mine is a memory of important events: first declarations of love, our daughters’ births and milestones, vacations, graduations, life lessons. He can find spots visited only once. I can find items others have lost in the house. Together we keep the structure of our home and lives in place.

The memories link like the water to the river, endless ripples flowing on.

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My Human Hard Drive

They say marriage is falling in love and promising till death us do part. It’s being parenting partners and partners in life. My husband has been all of these to me. But the function I’ve been appreciating more and more lately is when he is my human hard drive.

My husband is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to caring for the plants and trees in our yard, when the furnace needs a new filter, and how to get somewhere he drove once ten years ago. But he’s also my go-to for remembering words I can’t. I’ve always had a terrible memory for names. At this stage of my life, specific places and things get misplaced as well.

Just yesterday we went to a movie. In the ads before the movie started, I leaned over and whispered, “That guy looks like he could be the brother of the guy on that show. Josh Somebody, who tries to discover things.”

It was still bugging me when we stopped at a place for lunch. I asked if he knew who I meant.

“Sure, Josh Gates on Expedition Unknown.”

As conversation continued, we were trying to recall the last time we’d been to that restaurant. Was it last Christmas with my family?

“No,” I said. “I think we ate at the one by the airport. What’s the name of it?”

If I can’t remember the name of it, it’s pretty hard to talk about it. But he’s so used to my clues, he usually gets it.

He’s especially useful for celebrity monikers. When we’re choosing a show, he may ask, “Who’s in it?”

My reply is frequently something like, “I can’t think of her name. You know she was in the movie where she and her sister were witches and she used to be married to Tom Hanks – No! Cruise?”

Sometimes he waits to see if it will come to me, but eventually he’ll put me out of my misery and just tell me.

I’m not completely senile. If we met once five years ago and had a good conversation, I can remember that we met at the tire place and you told me about your stepson’s nephew’s gall bladder surgery. Just don’t expect me to recall your name.

If I really do develop dementia someday, it might be hard to tell. But I’ll bet my husband will be the first one who notices.

 

For a mushier view of marriage, read Valentine. If you’re hungry, try A Marriage of Meals.