I’m approaching the end of my 18th year of writing a weekly newspaper column. I’m actually kind of astonished there are still newspapers.
But this month also marks the anniversary of this blog, although it’s not really this blog, if you follow. It’s moved around quite a bit. Once in a while, I’ll use the Wayback Machine to look at the original, just to be reminded. Everything seems so primitive.
So, some perspective—one of my first blog posts was of a current column I’d written about sending my daughter off to college. It was kind of traumatic, or at least theatrical; I was sort of a mess.
But that’s perspective for you. She’s now approaching her 35th birthday and enjoying some little freedoms (and her own trauma) as her child goes to kindergarten. Yikes. Those 16 years have been pretty full.
The columns are something else. There are over 900 of them now, just resting on my hard drive (and on various other hard drives around the world). A handful have made it into books. I have no idea what to do with the rest. Forgettable, many of them, surely. But some of them are good. Dunno. I’m not sure I’d have the energy or ambition or interest, really, in rereading myself from years ago, just to find out.
There’s history in there. I’ve gone dark a few times on the blog, just set it aside for a month or three. I’ve only missed a handful of weeks writing the column. It’s been one of the most consistent things in my life, now that I think of it.
It’s not really notable. The audience has grown, although I don’t really understand the audience. It’s older now, apparently, given my reader mail, since people often mention their ages (I don’t know exactly why, but I’m really grateful; it’s the one question I’d always ask, if I were only allowed one question. Of anyone, anytime), although I have some younger readers. It’s all sort of a mystery.
So there’s that. It’s been 16 Augusts’ worth of blogging, and 18 years of column writing. My daughter marked her 10-year wedding anniversary on August 15. That was a lot of fun, that wedding.
But Augusts have some really bad memories. It all worked out, but I can tell stories.
I told one of those stories this week, in that column I keep talking about. It wasn’t a spontaneous recollection. I’d been thinking about my friend Kurt for a few weeks.
Forgetting frightens me more than anything, maybe. It occurred to me in Scotland, all the time, that I was forgetting as I experienced. It’s the way we’re made, and how we manage to keep moving, but it’s a constant battle for me. As soon as we came back, I began separating my photos into segments, breaking up the trip into moments that might make it possible to actually recall some details in a couple of years. It’s a losing battle, I know.
But it’s important. I didn’t include this in the column, but one of the last times I saw my friend was at my sister’s wedding, in 1985. At one point he was holding my six-month-old daughter, the same one who’s looking down the barrel at 35 now. “I should know her,” I remember him saying.
I knew what he was talking about. It didn’t feel right that time and distance had ganged up on our past, making it feel further away than it really was. In a right and just world, my friend would have been Uncle Kurt, an adult figure in the lives of my children who would help and listen and give them anything they wanted, of course. Kids need lots and lots of aunts and uncles like this.
It broke my heart a little to think of that, which sort of contradicts my statements in the piece that it isn’t about sadness. It’s not, really, but only in the sense that we generally lead sad lives, given the nature of human beings. Our survival depends on forgetting.
It’s just some things I’d rather not forget, not yet.