Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mooney Column: January 11, 2010

Antelope Valley Press
Edward Mooney, Jr.
January 11, 2010

Title: Casting a line into time passages.

My daughters and my son, tonight, while standing by my sink in the bathroom, I fiddled with a Christmas gift – a no-name digital music player. No, it’s not well known, but the music is beautiful. Finally, the light came on and everything worked. As I looked into the mirror familiar sounds flowed into my ears.

“Night like a river beginning to flow
I felt the beat of my mind
Go drifting into time passages”

As I gazed into my own face, a shock ran through my body. My eyes widened. I was back in the little bathroom of my apartment at Montana State University, where I first heard these notes. This was not how I appeared the first time I heard Al Stewart’s song.

“The years run too short and the days too fast”

Something dawned on me. I reached up to the top of my head. You see me as bald. You will never know how that little lock of hair in front used to curl upward, or how much I miss it. I shuddered. Where did the years go?

“The things you lean on
Are the things that don't last”

My hand gently slid down to the side of my eye. Those wrinkles weren’t there in 1978. I wondered how many tears that eye has shed; tears you can never know about. I hope whenever you look at me you’ll see more than the wrinkles. I hope you’ll see that the lines are reminders of all the late nights when you were sick, and the rays of the sun as I toiled on our lawn.

I thought for sure I’d be young forever, but there was no way I could convince myself that what I was looking at was a young face anymore. I gingerly stroked my gray hairs. A tear struggled forward.

“Well, it's just now
And then my line gets cast into these
Time passages”

I used to wonder why old men were so obsessed with the past; now I understand. We’re reminded that most of our lives are now in the past. Those deep lines beside my mouth were not there when I was twenty. I didn’t look like this. As I gazed at a photo of you, I realized that you, too, will have to confront this someday. And, yes, my parents must have looked into a mirror and felt this way. Another tear welled up.

“There's something back there that you left behind”

The memories flooded in. I closed my eyes and dug deep to find the faces of my mother and my father. There they were, as in a fog, far away. My Noni was there, too, behind them. I could almost smell her lasagna. I wanted to call out to them.

“A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you're all alone
In those time passages”

As I opened my eyes the light from the mirror glinted on the streams of water dripping from my face. Not smoothly, as they would on your face, but with interruptions from wrinkles.

“Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight”

It may sound strange, but I write this hoping you’ll save these words for some distant time when you’re in your fifties, and I’ll be one of those distant, and wrinkled, faces, in the deep fog of your past.

Please remember that I wasn’t all bad. I was just as human as you are. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to feel safe. I had dreams. I wasn’t just the man who said “no” when you wanted a new toy. I had the same limitations with money and time as you probably will have. I had the same pain denying a child something. As hard as it is to believe, I had the same struggles as a teen that you experienced. A girl once broke my heart.

One of the mysteries of life is that as we age we see our parents in a different light. I worry. How will you remember me? Will you see me differently?

Don’t let these time passages rob you of our connection. Even in the fog of your future memories, know that I would be there if I could. The smile you’ll see, in your mind’s eye, will be real – telling you that I still love you, even if I’m gone.

I’d stay with you a bit more, but time passages won’t allow it. The sun’s rising.

(Acknowledging Al Stewart’s song, “Time Passages.”)

Thought for the Week: "We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.” - Henry Ward Beecher

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