Sunday, May 06, 2007

Feast or famine

Hi everyone:

On those nights when Patty's fatigue overcomes her earlier than usual, I often find myself drawn to this blog, because it serves as a facsimile for a late-evening conversation with friends; true, it's pretty one-sided, but that's how it goes. Those who come here for important information about Patty will be instead subjected to a flurry of messages of little import (insert joke about "and that is different how?" here.)

The funny thing is that the messages that seem to say so little end up meaning so much more when Patty and I revisit them later, because they feel like important evidence of our lives. I'm sure everyone can share stories that reinforce this point -- when you see a photo of yourself as a child, for example, you can often capture in the retelling the exact circumstances in which that photo was taken, even if many years have passed. Recent memories are also lent greater clarity when you can refresh the scene by looking at a photograph. If you scroll back to last year, you'll find a pic of Patty riding me piggyback through the halls of University of Chicago Hospital; it was such a small transgression, but the lasting feeling was of a happy rebellion at a time when Patty seemed to be getting bad news left and right.

These photos are also, then, a chance to reflect on how grateful we should be that Patty is still going as strong as she is; we are grateful, if sometimes impatient. I feel a range of emotions when I see photos in which Patty is battling pain; I feel another batch of feelings when I see pics of her dancing, laughing and interacting with the kids. I know more from observation than experience how affected a person can be when they look at a photo of a loved one who has died; the person seems both pained at the image and grateful for the preserved memory. I don't presume to really know this feeling, but I do know that I sometimes fear it.

Connor and I shared a moment tonight that started the ball rolling on these thoughts about images and memories. For context, I need to share a brief back story. Whenever the kids enjoy a concert or other special occasion, I snap pictures like a maniac and then we give the kids prints of the best snaps for them to keep in photo albums we provide for them. Connor has almost filled two albums with pictures from these events, along with a bunch of others from his infancy to today. He has pics from Thanksgiving at Mike's, and from Christmas at Kevin's, and from concerts with his siblings and with one of his best friends. He has a photo with me in which we both look much younger, I look much thinner, and he's wearing, with no shame, a Barney sweatshirt. Throughout these pages, he has many photographs of his mother, many of which include him as a subject; to date, Connor has never declined an opportunity to pose with her.

Tonight, Connor put me on notice that he will soon need a third photo album. When I lauded him on his impressive collection of photos, he shared with me, "Sometimes, when I'm in bed, I just like to flip through the pictures and remember the fun things." Patty and I know that pictures won't take away the kids' anxieties, but we both think some of the kids are deriving comfort from being able to rekindle memories of times in which fun overshadowed worry.

Sorry for spewing my armchair philosophies; try to think of this as late-night viewing, when there's just nothing worth watching. I'll get back to more important matters -- like the disappearance of the bird and eggs -- in future postings.


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