Memories! as the old song from the musical “Cats” goes. Memories that fill the mind and tickle the emotions of old-timers, who have far more pictures of the past than anticipated blessings in the future. Reminders of the wonderful gifts we’ve received over the years. Especially people who were blessings to us then and now as we stumble through our old age.
This is not to say that we have only the past to hold onto. There’s the future, too, as brief as it may be. Those same memories inspire us to move forward in the hope that there is still work to be done, lives to be touched, gifts to be given and received.
My trip to the US has broken the dam and the memories are flooding in. At the annual family gathering in the Adirondacks my brothers and I would sit around the table and piece together pictures of the past, as if we were putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Stories that my father had told them about his early dating days with my mom. (I had never heard them because I had left to become a Jesuit before he began sharing such stories.) Stories about how the annual family gathering originated 40 years ago. Even being reminded by a niece how, as a young child, she stood on a chair to look me straight in the eyes as she lectured me on how to treat kids like her.
My brother Joe and his wife Liz were married in 1969, a month after my ordination. This called for a celebration that attracted still more persons to the mountains for the weekend.
Jerry Finin and his wife Dawn dropped in for a few hours one day. Jerry, who formerly worked at the East-West Center, provided many welcome opportunities for me to speak and to publish in Hawaii in recent years. We chatted and swam and snacked and sipped wine before he had to return to Albany.
Late and long breakfasts gave us time to listen to stories and expand them. Dinners that began with a circle of family and friends, perhaps 50 or 60 in all, giving thanks for the meal with joined hands went on well into the evening. We even had a liturgy or two with kids and adults singing and offering prayers for those close to them.
How about the talent show toward the end of the week? The whole group singing the chorus of one of the topical songs: “Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.” There were somersaults, ditties, and stories. The “Brothers Five”–that would be me and my four siblings–even did a few old folks songs we remembered from the ‘60s.
All of it building still more memories for days yet to come.