June 23, 2008

Threads of Yesterday


Early into Kindergarten I was taken to the doctor and given an emergency examination. My parents had an urgency which, at the age of five, I had never sensed before. Our family physician wrote a prescription and sent us home. I remember thinking nothing of it until I was spoon fed this foul mixture and I gagged before swallowing it. Also, my folks woke me in the middle of the night to give me this same elixir once more.

Youth and the fog of memory cloud one’s perspective and make the image in the rear view mirror of the mind a bit fuzzy. I needed the medicine, yet I wasn’t sick. Back in 1968, things were a lot different than they are today. I didn’t even have pediatrician. But, the fact remains that something happened to give my parents and the doctor a scare.

A young girl in my class died of viral meningitis.

She passed away at the age of five, and it troubles me that I do not remember her name or even her face. Perhaps as I write this, there's mother and a father who pause each day to recall her laugh, gaze at her photo, and shed a tear forty years later. By now they are elderly, perhaps they are grandparents; yet, how could they forget her?

My life and that of the little girl crossed at one point. Though the thread was thin which connected us, there was indeed a portion of the fabric of space-time where we shared a common patch of Earth and we were steered along a congruent path toward maturation.

To a greater degree, her parents towed the same line, and they stood at the edge of that plane of existence which I shared with their daughter. Is a tiny ripple of one youthful life so great as to cause a wave of emotion vibrant enough to continue to intrigue a grown man?

Four decades have passed and I still think about my classmate. She has the effect of keeping me focused as my life is supposed to have significance. I will explain.

My cynicism has caused to me to question my life’s purpose. I’ve derailed the concepts of destiny and fate having any sort of influence over me. Yet, I am able to connect the dots from many events throughout my past which, when held up to the light, spin a story of divine guidance which can not be ignored.

The players who’ve accompanied me on my journey thus far, including, family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and some victims I’ve encountered during my years in law enforcement, have all contributed bits and snippets of truth and awareness which only occurs to me when I cast off the cloak of skepticism and become open to the charms of serendipity.

I want to recollect this fated young girl back in elementary school. I can still see where she sat in class and the back of her head. With her brown hair clasped together to form pig tails, she sat upright in those first days of school and listened Mrs. Sisti teach us the ABCs. Is it fair that I made it this far in life and not she? What does it mean when a young person dies? How do I validate my additional forty years of breathing in exchange for being lucky enough to not get sick?

My conscience is not equipped to deal with transience, the algebra of survival, and cosmic disproportion. For this reason, I am compelled to assess my endurance, to make good on an unearthed vow evoked by my introspection and unadulterated scrutiny of what I deem to be providence. Why do I live? How am I so fortunate; and what is the toll for continuing along this thoroughfare, this life?

For the sake of so many before me, and including this girl of whom I write, I will endeavor to be a good person. My goal shall be to contribute something to the rest of us. Each day, I give a bit more, I think, as I follow a new string I've discovered with my eyes wide open and my mind cleared of wretched disbelief.

My children have passed the young girl in age; and, hopefully I will never mourn, God forbid, in the same manner as her parents do to this day. This girl, this fleeting life, still teaches; though her responsibility was never to die; but to grow.

There is a photograph buried in an archive of snapshots and Polaroids at my dad’s house. Captured on paper in one of these collections is an image of me in Kindergarten. I remember when this class portrait was taken; and, the young girl was not there that day. Her mom and dad no longer took her to school by then; and, she never hanged her finger paintings in the hallway with the rest of us for Open School Night.

I intend to dig that picture out of the drawer my father keeps his memories in. The will is there, but not the effort. Perhaps I will find it one day when I sit back and consider my life and how I got here. Sometimes, whenever I recall everyone I knew over the years, a little girl nudges me and reminds me that she was alive and that she mattered in this world. Her parents should know that a new filament has been cast across the dimensions between life and death, and their child continues to weave herself into the cloth of someone else’s being. I shall secure this lifeline offered me by my classmate and keep myself grounded with the concept that I will justify my existence and fulfill my obligations.

Many years ago, a mom and dad lost their daughter. This man, a boy in her Kindergarten class, will never forget her.

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36 comments:

Mike French said...

Wow first in for a change, I'm normally last!

"Is a tiny ripple of one youthful life so great as to cause a wave of emotion vibrant enough to continue to intrigue a grown man?"

The above and in lots of other bits Mike you write a brilliant account of your memory, or lack of it, of the girl.

When I was at school one of the kids died. He wasn't in my class and I only knew him in passing. But they said one day he went to a football match and just slumped over and died. I remember being shocked.

Yesterday I heard about how a neigbour's son was killed on Monday. The son was grown up with kids and a wife.

We believe we are so immortal, our own death unimaginable. But we are so fragile.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Mike,
Congratulations! Because you are the first person to respond to one of my posts, you get the grand prize!

...Hold on a sec...what exactly did I do with the grand prize?

Sorry mate, I ate it for lunch. Don't feel bad, it was a baloney sandwich.

I am sorry about your neighbor's son being killed. That is a tragedy. My condolences to the family of this man.

It is a shock to have a classmate die, and the first such time in my life this happened was as I describe in this post with the young girl. You too must have had some dreadful feelings about the boy in your school playing sports and dying suddenly. Did his death follow you as is the case with me and the girl in my class? Thanks for reading Mike.

I'll do something about the grand prize to make it up to you, maybe. Do you like peanut butter?

-Mike.

Anna said...

Hi Mike, just getting back to blogging again, slowly though. This is one interesting yet sad story. Things like that, especially when children die, are hard to forget. I lived through many deaths since I was 5 years old, and I tell you every one of them I still remember. Thanks for sharing, Anna :)

confused said...

powerful stuff that made me reflect back on my youth and the ones I knew that we lost ..

Jack Payne said...

Lotsa introspection there, Mike. Reminds me of that classic question, If I'm here to help others, what are others here for? Good you can frame such a grim memory with positive thoughts, though, and trundle on down the highway of life, unaffected, negatively, by it.

Mike French said...

"Did his death follow you as is the case with me and the girl in my class?"

Not really I couldn't get my head around it and pushed it away.

Peanut butter? Yes please, I'll just pop over - I'll be about 8 hours.

paisley said...

quite a lot to think about in this post..
i lost my first classmate in 8th grade,, and think and even write about her and losing her till this very day..
a mark is made on each of us when a soul leaves us...
and i think the most we can hope for,, is our name to remain upon the lips of those that we leave behind... very enjoyable post....

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

What a poignant, beautiful post. That little girl lives through you and that's why you keep coming back to that handprint of time. How special. I think you have a guardian angel. :D

Hugs, JJ

Brenda said...

What a bitter-sweet, yet insightful, introspection! I think many of us struggle over the question of our life's purpose (I, for one, do). It seems we all also measure our lives against something external, in your case this little girl. Yet, I don't think we can adequately calculate how we're "repaying for our time on the planet." Some of my smallest actions (ie., taking time paint sweatshirts with a young nephew) have had repercussions in the lives of others that I'm only now beginning to comprehend a decade later. Anyway, you've packed so many good questions here to create a very thought-provoking post ... great stuff!

Peter said...

Hi! Thinking back now, I do recall having lost one or two class mates to accidents or disease.

It was such a long time ago and although it was upsetting, I didn't dwell on it for too long, as I was young and thought it couldn't happen to me. Just thought it was a sad fact of life.

Now that I'm much older, I do give death more thought. Part of accepting and coming to grips with my own mortality, now that I'm well beyond middle age.

Thank you for prompting me to remember.

Take Care,
Peter

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Anna,
I am glad to see you back to blogging.

"I lived through many deaths since I was 5 years old, and I tell you every one of them I still remember."

I am sorry to hear about the losses you've endured over the years. I too, have suffered from the pain of seeing friends and relatives die. But, I think what I was trying to convey here is that early on, at the start of my life, there was a group of us at the startingline, and someone fell away early, taken so young, and that through life others won't make it as well. What then, give credibility to my own existence? Why am I spared? So, i search for meaning and seek to be worthwhile. This little girl whose name I do not remember serves as a guidepost, an inspiration, if you will, for me to continue to make good on the promise of living a decent life and being a good parent. Thank you so much for reading, and I am glad to see you back.
-Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Confused,
I really appreciate you stopping by to read my work. Thanks for the comment. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jack,

"If I'm here to help others, what are others here for?"

Interesting question, one to make a person ponder; but, the answer is that others are good for helping to. Wea re here to help each other, myfriend. Thak you for reading. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Mike,
I can understand why you'd want ot push the death of a classmate away. I was too young to understabnd what happened. Throught my life when I lost friends, and fellow police officers who were killed in the line of duty, I had to push their deaths away in orer to still function as a cop. Now, as I have a more sedentary and safe career, I am able to refelct on those who left this earth before me...begiing with the little girl in my Kindergarten class. Thanks Mike.

-Mike. (M2)

P.S. I have no peanut butter, would you like some dry, white toast instead?

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Paisley,

"I lost my first classmate in 8th grade,, and think and even write about her and losing her till this very day..
a mark is made on each of us when a soul leaves us..."



I can feel your sympathy for your classmate in your words here. You soul was touched by this person, and you have honored your classmate with youtr remberence. Thank you for reading this post and for your thoughtful comment. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JJ,
"I think you have a guardian angel..."

That may very well be true, Nature Nut. I apprecuate you reading this post and for your thoughtful words here. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Brenda,

"I don't think we can adequately calculate how we're "repaying for our time on the planet." Some of my smallest actions (ie., taking time paint sweatshirts with a young nephew) have had repercussions in the lives of others that I'm only now beginning to comprehend a decade later."

You raise an interesting point here, and I think that as much as we try to have an impact on other's lives, it is a matter of perspective from the person we are trying to reach. The time you spend with your nephew can only have a value from his eyes. You did the right hing, guiding your young nephew, and no matter how he sees it, ultimately, you had a positive effect. Maybe I am rambling, but, i think I have a new blog post coming out of the comment you made here. Check back in about a month to see if the thoughts percolating in my brain have resurfaced into some sort of coherant blog post, lol. Thank you so much for your comment. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Peter,

"Now that I'm much older, I do give death more thought. Part of accepting and coming to grips with my own mortality, now that I'm well beyond middle age."

I think I am begiing to head down that path of examining my own mortality, my friend. Thanks for the comment.
-Mike.

Martin Miller-Yianni said...

Was quite encapsulated with you descriptive blog. It opened up pictures new to me as a youngster from another environment.

Why not make an ebook or a hard copy of a collection of your memories? It has the pedigree!

Max said...

Hey Mike,

I am so sorry about your classmate, so young; and what a terrible disease!
Her parents must weep over her until today; cause I gather that a parent never forgets his offspring.

About your questions: I would say that she died so young cause her mission was fulfilled; it was time for her to go Home. And you are here because your mission is not yet fulfilled, it is as simple as that (I know you are Catholic; and the only Catholic I know that actually believes in my mystical conversation is my mom [lol]; but I was born with this knowledge and I'm sharing it with you).

The world is blessed because you are among us; and maybe it is even more blessed for having your classmate as an Angel looking over it :)!

Thanks for sharing this personal story with us; I was moved by it!

Cheers

Swubird said...

Mike:

Your story brought back sad memories of my little cousin. Her nickname was Tinker and she was full of life and energy. All of us kids liked her the most. Sadly, she died. It was a great loss to all of us, and, of course, we wondered why. But there is no logic to these tragic things - they just happen.

Happy trails.

Sherer said...

Mr. Grudge. A powerful post. I almost do not know what do say - as nothing can be added to it.

Bob Johnson said...

Mike what a beautiful story, you have such a way with words, has made me think back and take stock of my life, "if that's all there is my friend, then lets keep dancing" words to a song I remember sometimes when I get reflective, maybe we will know why things happen the way they do when we pass on, maybe then it won't matter.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Martin,
"Was quite encapsulated with you descriptive blog. It opened up pictures new to me as a youngster from another environment."

Thank you for reading and I appreciate your comment!
-Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Max,

"About your questions: I would say that she died so young cause her mission was fulfilled; it was time for her to go Home. And you are here because your mission is not yet fulfilled, it is as simple as that (I know you are Catholic; and the only Catholic I know that actually believes in my mystical conversation is my mom [lol]; but I was born with this knowledge and I'm sharing it with you)."

I belive in mystical conversation as well. Perhaps, I am drawn to my expereinces with those who have passed before me because I am searching for some sort of cosmic connection with them, or seeking a mystical truth. Her mission may have been filled, and God may not want us to know what it is. But God also created us with free will, and I will always seek answers. Thanks Max. Your words are poignant. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Swubird,

"Your story brought back sad memories of my little cousin. Her nickname was Tinker and she was full of life and energy. All of us kids liked her the most. Sadly, she died. It was a great loss to all of us, and, of course, we wondered why. But there is no logic to these tragic things - they just happen."

I am sorry about your cousin, tinker. Perhaps there is not reason for your cousin's death. As I told max, i am forever seeking meaning in my life, and I also must search for meaning in death, especially in the taking of such young life. Thanks, Swubird. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Sherer,
Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Bob,

"Mike what a beautiful story, you have such a way with words, has made me think back and take stock of my life, "if that's all there is my friend, then lets keep dancing" words to a song I remember sometimes when I get reflective, maybe we will know why things happen the way they do when we pass on, maybe then it won't matter."

I am glad I got you thinking, in a way. This is a sad subject. But, you are correct, that if this is all we have, then keep dancing. I'll keep writing. Thanks Bob. -Mike.

jenniferw said...

That's a great gift she gave you, Mike. She would be glad, I think, if she knew.

Anna said...

Hey Mike, just I thought I drop by again. I know what you mean, why some of us are given chance to live, and not others. About 10 years ago, my best friend died in the car accident day after her wedding - thousands miles away. Hours later after her death, thousands miles away, I had accident, almost head on, car destroyed, yet I came out with few bruises. I asked my self the same question, why her and not me. She was real real good person, she was like an angel to me always watching out for me, yet me being sometimes a preson who would get angry with her. I think some things happen for reason, may be to teach us a lesson....

Mike hope all is well, thanks for your comment back and further elaboration...Anna :)

Lynda Lehmann said...

Mr. Grudge, this is such a thoughtful and poignant post that I'm sure it will be meaningful to all who read it. You have some WONDERFUL turns of phrase in here, and I'm so impressed! I'm sure you already know which passage I'm referring to.

Thanks for the great read!

Casey Quinn said...

Very good post - Goes back to the fact that anyone who wants to write, should write about life. It is more dramatic then anyones imagination

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jennifer,

"That's a great gift she gave you, Mike. She would be glad, I think, if she knew."

Yes, if she only knew. Too bad we have to die, right? Thanks you for describing that she gave me a gift. I never thought of it that way. -Mike.

Sorry to all for being late with my respnses...I have been away, and busy with work.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Anna,

"About 10 years ago, my best friend died in the car accident day after her wedding - thousands miles away. Hours later after her death, thousands miles away, I had accident, almost head on, car destroyed, yet I came out with few bruises. I asked my self the same question, why her and not me?"

I am so sorry about your frined, and I am glad you are okay. The question haunts for a lifetime, I suppose. By writing, I hope to come to terms with all whom I've lost. Thanks, Anna. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lynda,
I am flattered by your comments about my writing. Thank you so much for coming by and reading. It means a lot to me. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Casey,

"Goes back to the fact that anyone who wants to write, should write about life. It is more dramatic then anyones imagination..."

I suppose you have a point there. I was looking for catharsis in this post. Thanks you for reading and for visiting my blog. -Mike.