Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Sickness...

Please note: the following article is meant to be funny. If a pregnant woman experiencing fluctuations in her hormone levels (who shall remain nameless) reads this, she is supposed to take it lightheartedly and not get upset. Or giddy. But upset is my primary concern.

Pregnant women get sick. It is a fact of life that cannot be overcome. God has pronounced it, and it will come to pass. Not too long ago my wife was nauseous, tired, and irritable in the evening. She would be in bed around 9 o' clock and I would work on the computer, read a book, or do something else for an hour or two before finally hopping in bed beside her.

Then the nausea went away and the mental illness began. I don't mean to say that my wife was crazy, but I don't really know how else to describe it. One evening my wife was obviously tired and lying in bed. As I cuddled up next to her she got kind of silly. She grabbed the blanked and said, "Rah, rah, rah!" waving it in my face as though it had magically become a vicious beast intent on latching onto my face.

Mildly bemused, I said what I was thinking (a big no, no when in the company of pregnant women). I said, "You're silly." I wasn't being mean. I was actually laughing as I said it. But her response was sudden and unexpected. She began crying and buried her head under her pillow. Clearly I don't understand a thing about pregnancy.

She managed to calm down, but couldn't really determine what made her so goofy or silly in the first place. What else would you call that besides mental illness?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Counting Bears

As I find myself thinking about this new life that is growing inside Hannah, I remember my own childhood, the things that await our young child who isn’t aware of anything outside itself and won’t have lasting memories for a couple years.

There is something about bringing new life into the world that reminds me of my own frailty and mortality. This is the first step of passing the baton to the next generation who will carry it on after I am gone. And part of me, a selfish part perhaps, wants to be remembered.

I know almost nothing about my great-grandparents on my father’s side of the family. Anything older than that is unknown to me. Within just a few generations the entire knowledge of a person can vanish. We may know names, dates, and grave markers, but we don’t know them.

Up until recently, the only way to really connect to people of previous generations was through the writings that were left behind. Some writings are extant, like the life of David, or Augustine, or Winston Churchill. But others are not, and people like Anton Wencl only exist in the memory of my aging grandmother, a family tree diagram, and maybe a sepia photograph.
With the arrival of the internet and blogging, I am able to record much more of my life than previous generations, but I realize that even if these records can stay out on the World Wide Web, they will either be forgotten or lost amidst the ocean of records and data available.
I feel like the Giver from the book by Lois Lowry. I am the keeper of all these memories, and I want to share them with those who will come after me. But my memories are not those of other people, merely my own. And even if I can pass one story to the generations to come, it cannot mean the same to them as it does to me.

Why do I remember doing math in second grade with little yellow plastic bears as counting aids? The memory is vivid in my mind. I remember the short tables, the classmates, the plastic totes, and the pile of little plastic baubles, the feel of them in my fingers, and with joy I experience again the innocence of childhood.

This memory captures the essence of it for me, and deep inside I feel the longing for the time before I realized that people die and are forgotten.

But perhaps I’m more like the Giver than I thought. As time went on the Giver passed on all that he could to the next generation until all he had left was one memory for himself. He had one memory, music, which he tried to talk about and explain, but couldn’t pass on because that was his to cherish. Maybe that’s what the plastic bears are for me.