“Memory is the enemy of wonder,
which abides nowhere else but in the present.
This is why, unless you are a child,
wonder depends on forgetting. – on a process,
that is, of subtraction.”
– Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
The waves wash loose shells and rocks, dead fish and scuttling crabs. Deposits of tiny broken shells are interupted with other stretches of hard-packed sand. In between there is the deep dry sand, almost as impossible to walk through as snow.
But these long morning beach walks loosen the immaterial as well. Memories fall out in step with my feet as they sink into the tidal sand, and then fall away again as I reach another stretch of shells.
Kevin walks beside me, as lost in his thoughts as I am in mine.
I try to let go of the thoughts as they arise, trying to remain present. Otherwise, like a rogue wave, there can be a fleeting moment of panic; a premonition of all that can go wrong, removing all the wonder of the present.
Following these future thoughts asks too much of me, while the past can too often bring its own peculiar despair…
Because mostly…what I’m trying to avoid is thinking about my sister living out her life in a lousy motel room. I try so hard not to think of her on her birthday or at Christmas, alone in a dingy room near the Abbotsford highway.
Instead, I continue to walk, here in the present, to remain grateful for physical and mental health, for the ability to keep moving. I try not to wish for things I cannot have. I cannot make my sister well. I cannot rescue her from herself and her habits.
I used to think I could. For so long I was the hero to her victim. It hadn’t always been that way. When I was still in elementary school, she was the older, teenaged sister I admired. At some point our roles flipped and I became her rescuer.
Too many years later, I finally came to realize I could barely save myself, never mind deluding myself that I could save her.
But I was raised to be guilty and though I am so much better than I used to be, guilt is too often a default state; guilt for all my past sins of not caring enough and guilt for all my future sins of remaining silent while she remains alone.
I still harbour a secret fantasy…in it, Rhonda and I are hanging out in a cafe, and oh man, we’re laughing so hard, just like we used to. And that, that is what I miss the most. I miss that sister who has long ago disappeared and been replaced by someone I no longer recognize.
We were a team, united against the rigid lines of religion and parents determined to keep us on the tight and narrow. Our oldest sister Diane, had moved out. It was only Rhonda and me. With constant laughter, Rhonda rescued me from Dad’s anger, shared my frustration with Mom’s sadness.
But all that is in the past. Mom was long ago silenced by death. Dad too.
Thankfully, I still have Diane.
But the last time I saw Rhonda was at Dad’s funeral. Of everything from that day, I remember Rhonda’s eyes the most. They were dark holes that revealed no one behind their glittering shine.
Love can be as twisted and strangling as ropes of seaweed knotted on the shore. I wish it were different. I wish I could be stronger in her presence, to not be bothered by her manipulations, hurtful words and bitter anger.
But then I ask myself, why? Why would I want to subject myself to all of that again?
Instead, I pay attention to the shore. I listen to the waves.
And I am thankful for what is before me, right here, right now.