|13 july 1999|
more for me, morpheus
I was reminded this morning of time's silent march by the mention of death in the Sole Proprietor's journal. His loss of someone close to him has found him in an unusual numbness as he considers the suddenness and permanence of death. His words reminded me of a kind of mindstorm that blew through me several weeks ago.
When I began to have noticeable health problems that kept me awake one night (they have since been remedied), my thoughts raced immediately to the worst case scenario. Something had gone wrong with my body, this trusty vessel I've carried and been carried by was threatened, mysteriously, and in the dead of night I got to lie there and let the dark thoughts come.
I was surprised by how swiftly those thoughts arrived. It seemed that within seconds I was convinced that my body was riddled with cancer (woe was me for having neglected well check-ups), that my daughter would be raised without me, and that I'd best put my affairs in order come sunrise.
That morning, while shaving in preparation for a doctor visit, I looked in the mirror at what might be the oldest face I'd ever have. He died young, they'd say. And then I stumbled upon a phrase that shook me to my bones.
"Steve Amaya died."
I'd never put those three words together before. And while I have since been treated for what turned out to be a minor problem, the phrase has lingered as a mantra of my own mortality.
Try it with your own name and see if you're not affected and reminded that your time here is short.
When I heard myself say it I was thrown into the territory where friendships and family and acquaintances live. In considering how the bad news (presumably) might travel I got to review my own outlook toward my standing. Who was I to those who would hear of my death? How would they learn of it? What would be their memories of me? Such a review may have a way of trimming one's rudder as one flies through life.
I've told some friends about this experience, and about uttering the phrase "Steve Amaya died" and how it affected me. When I asked them to try it out on themselves with their own names to see how it felt, some refused.
What is that? Is it fear? Of what? Are the words somehow magic? Or is it denial? But how can someone deny so obvious an inevitability?
I remain fascinated by the power of words.
That night, the contemplation of my impending death also brought instantly to mind the life of my daughter. She's about to turn 8 years old. I wondered, selfishly, about her memories of me and how affected she might be with my loss. This floored me. I got sad. Very sad. The kind of which I do not get. I made a doctor's appointment ASAP.
I thought about changes she'd go through, her growing into a woman. It's funny, with adults I know, when I see pictures of them as kids I can look at the photo and say sure, that's them, of course they grew up to look like this. But I can't look at Amy now and see the face of the woman she will be. I try, but I can't. Sometimes I want to grab time by the ears and pull it forward to show me the woman my daughter will become, allay my fears, confirm my hopes. I ache to know that woman.
These thoughts came quickly, their impact hitting me within seconds, and any hot fears they may have sparked in me were quickly cooled by remembering what my wife is like.
What struck me instantly was how confident I am in Viv's character, how overwhelmed I am by her integrity. To know her well is to be assured that any choices she makes are good ones well pondered. There is no love greater than the love she has for Amy, and the power of this bond assures me that my daughter will always be safe and happy with her around.
Unless Viv goes off and commits the horrible horrible mistake of marrying Nicholas Cage, which she has threatened to do on more than one occasion.
I have no point in all this other than to remind myself that I am still alive, and that with all the distractions in which I can lose myself so easily, the treasure is in the seemingly small and simple contacts, the warm and quiet knowledge of love.
"A Matter of Time" -- Los Lobos -- JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM EAST L.A.: A COLLECTION
"The roots of a child's ability to cope and thrive, regardless of circumstance, lie in that child's having had at least a small, safe place (an apartment? a room? a lap?) in which, in the companionship of a loving person, that child could discover that he or she was lovable and capable of loving in return."
- Fred Rogers