We will remember …scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind, Smiles we gave to one another…… the way we were (The Way We Were, by Alan/Marilyn Bergman)
Today Ivan, who is ninety, reminisces about his papa, because today is the anniversary of that great man’s death. Though it has been many years ago, they think of him on this day, and so many days throughout the year. He was an admirable man that had to flee Russia with his family, and lived the remainder of his life working at a job far beneath his upbringing and education.
Like many immigrants, his abilities and training went unrecognized in this new country… “non-transferable skills.” Many times, over the years of performing what most considered menial work, when someone would exclaim “How hard this must be to work at something so below your prior station in life!”, he would congenially reply, “It is the work that is beautiful”, implying that all work when done with loving intent is beautiful.
They proudly show me pictures and I think to myself as this man is honored in both his son’s and daughter-in-law’s memories, that he must have been a very special person. Like his son, Ivan.
We drink tea, and Ivan tells me stories about his childhood and young adult years, and his dear wife helps fill in details that his early dementia seems to blend together. I ponder the stories that every life holds, and how little we know of each other as we go along our merry way each day, often not stopping to pause even a moment to pay attention. My own family stopped listening to many of my mother’s stories as she aged, thinking they had heard them numerous times before.
The oral history of families, of lives completed years before our own: many of these stories totally forgotten, since no one cared to listen. How priceless
the stories of our lives! I wonder who will listen as we age and become home-bound, too feeble to engage in the social gatherings… our stories fading with our eyes and our memories shaking like our hands?
I have this sublime opportunity, listening to Ivan’s and Katrina’s life
stories, to know them and their shared history a little more with each visit, and am awed by the strength and beauty in this elderly couple.
And each time I visit them, I wonder …can they possibly be any kinder? They worry for me, it’s too breezy out and I didn’t bring a coat. Watch the steps on my way out. Be careful driving. They wave from the front porch, the two of them smiling and blessing me as I drive off in my car, carrying a few precious memories with me.