Published Sunday, September 23, 2012
As fall approaches, we begin gathering old tree limbs from the woods behind our house.
“We” being the SONs of Thunder and myself. You see, we are one with fire. And we have a rather nice fire ring set up in the back yard solely to, well, burn stuff.
Memories have a tendency to come back to you at weird times. You’re driving in your car and “that song” comes on. And you smile; or you sigh. It lifts you up or it tears you down.
For me, it was looking out at our bonfire pit. It reminded me of one we had back in Oklahoma. We had moved back a couple of years ago to the lake to take care of the Little Black Dress’ parents. We had plenty of shoreline, and thus, plenty of bonfire opportunities with all the driftwood. We burned a lot.
Most of the times those bonfires were just that, bonfires. Sometimes, however, we used them to let go and move forward.
Like the Two Chairs.
For years, the Two Chairs surrounded the kitchen table where the Little Black Dress grew up. She has fond memories of them, sitting there with her parents and brother around the table. Talking, laughing, good family times. Those chairs were a big part of her family.
I hated the Two Chairs. There was not a single good memory for me and those chairs. I sat in them plenty. And I was adamant we not take them with us when we were emptying the LBD’s parents’ house.
The Dress remembers the good times those chairs represented. I remember the emotional draining those chairs represented. The Dress remembers laughing with her parents in those chairs.
I remember sitting in one, my father-in-law in the other, and begging and pleading with him to get his wife, my second mom, full-time nursing care. Mom No. 2 was in the throes of Alzheimer’s.
I remember sitting in one, my father-in-law in the other, and trying to convince him that he was losing his memory. He was suffering from Dementia. It is hard to explain. He could drive to his veterinary practice and operate on animals like he had for the last 50 years. He would come home and see the SONs and asked when we got into town. We’d been there for three days. And we’d have the same conversation when he came home for dinner.
Dad No. 2 would get mad during these conversations as we sat on the Two Chairs. He’d argue. But sometimes he’d listen. And he’d agree. He’d cry, I’d cry. And then 30 minutes later he would not recall the conversation.
When The Dress brought the Two Chairs to our house I was not happy. But she tried. Stripped them, painted them - camouflage so to speak. It didn’t work. To me, they remained the Two Chairs.
And the LBD finally gave up. But this wasn’t a victory for me. It just was what it was. It was time to let go.
We decided to burn them. And we also decided to burn other stuff - stuff we wrote down on pieces of paper. Stuff that no longer mattered, that needed to be let go. We lit the fire and threw the Two Chairs on top. I remember it took forever for those chairs to catch fire, like they were taunting me one last time.
The eldest SON threw in his paper. I threw in mine. The middle SON threw in a piece of wood; I’m still not sure about what that meant. Youngest SON threw in a toy soldier.
And then the LBD threw her piece of paper in. And all three SONs piped in with “mom’s crying again.” Who could blame her? Her mom had just died; her dad was not far behind. So I suggested they give her a moment, which lasted a good 10 seconds.
That’s about how long it took before one SON threw a rock at another SON; one SON got the burning end of a stick; another one slipped in the lake and the one who threw the rock got hit with another stick and started screaming and ...
About that time the LBD “suggested” they disappear. Which they wisely did after giving her a hug.
So the LBD got her moment. I got to watch the Two Chairs burn. We both got, in some way, what we needed.
We all see things differently. Great memories. Painful memories. But that’s alright because it shows we are all unique. It also shows, I think, that every now and then we need to try and see things through the other person’s eyes, even if it’s only a glimpse.
John A. Winters is a staff writer for The Newnan Times-Herald. His personal blog is at justflipthedog.com . You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .