Don’t you love “ah ha” moments in life, when someone remembers you, notices something you have done or in some way elevates you, for how ever long, above the terra firma you normally exist on? In case you need a visual, watch an awards ceremony, a new bride or parent seeing their child for the first time. Our parched life finds a drop of the fountain of youth, in the sated seconds of recognition and or acclaim, and there is nothing wrong about loving it! However, like anything in life, too much is a nightmare and too little is a shame. Any movie star, business executive, historian or beauty queen can explain in great detail to that effect, especially after the limelight has faded them back to a normal and often embarrassing unrecognized existence.
As someone who has gotten her 15 minutes more than once, I know the rise and pitfall roller coaster and because of it, I will always recommend the merry-go-round for life’s enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with watching those passing by, as you sit amid glittering paint and lights, offering a smile and wave now and then. The scenery changes on every rotation, you are with friends, have the option of sitting down and usually a slight breeze in your face. Heck could be worse!
I never realized how serious we take acceptance until the last days of my mother’s life. A couple weeks short of her 91st birthday, she was adjusting to life after taking a nasty fall. Once sharp, with memory and wit that belied her true age, she had changed. After falling, the pieces came back together physically, but she was frail and fading each day – none of the king’s horses on the merry-go-round could put her back together again.
One of her last enjoyments was to watch television. She enjoyed the Hallmark channel, American Idol and Ellen (not always in that order.) As her mind failed, the remote control became an enemy of unknown buttons and volume, which often landed her on an infomercial, which she would watch for hours without saying a word. To avoid this and give her back control, there was a page listing favorite shows, channel, date and time on her nightstand.
I printed it fast one night, opened notepad between emails and sent it off to print. Because I didn’t save or title the document, it printed as “Untitled.txt” across the top, annoying to me, but a concern to my mother. After she looked at it, there was a genuine panic across her face. She looked at me and said “What is an “untitled?” What channel is it on? Do I like it?” My vast computer knowledge saw the humor, it was unmistakable (remember the soda can holder when internal CD drives were introduced?) But as a daughter with a dying parent, it was heartbreaking and brought her into a new light.
Mom’s days were slipping by – faster than we knew in tragic hindsight. She was no longer in her own home after 60 years and in so many ways she herself had become untitled. She had lived life titled as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, aunt, and grandmother several greats attached I might add. But now, as she was ending her life, with the exception of immediate family who might call, send an email, card or visit she was untitled to the rest of the world, that demands numerous attached nouns for person and place.
Sadly, I realized how much of her life was left untitled to me personally. Her generation, the one that saw the depression, the wars, computerization, miniaturization, the Internet and a million other life changing things,, was also a generation who kept themselves private and lived their lives with integrity and due diligence. I knew she was my mother, but most of her pages were unfilled, as well as untitled.
There had been times in my life when she shared stories and moments which had made her who she had become. Her recipes and baking were a life blood to me, but it was only shortly after she died, I learned she and her mother baked and sold things to a local bakery when she was a child. I had always thought she worked at that bakery as a young girl, maybe after school and imagined her sharing brownies and cookies with hard working young men stopping in for a flirt and a snack. I discovered a similar reality when my grandmother passed away, and to my delight found she had been outspoken in human equality in her era and most certainly would have supported her friends on Gay Pride Day, and had been a “Rosie the Riveter” during the war. Who knew? Sadly, not me, until it was too late.
My own daughters have always known the path I walked in life, my pride and embarrassment be damned. They know all the souvenirs I keep, in the form of memory, friend, love or artifact. I never wanted them to blindly face the unknown in their lives, but to use my experience as a divining rod, finding where hope springs eternal and not where tickets are sold out for their awaiting divine comedy.
Maybe we have become too open with the information we share, blog, file and USB pocket flash. But as we move away from learning experiences that require and register hard cover books, paper and pencil, what else can we do for future generations? Becoming the Fahrenheit 451 autobiography standard for our children seems to be the greatest gift we can ever give to them, especially if we never have 15 minutes in the spotlight. Because frankly, the alternative is something I would rather not watch or leave untitled.