My grandmother was murdered when my father was a teenager. He spent the next several years bouncing from home to home, often staying with his friends. One of those friends became like a brother to him. Our families were very close. And when I growing up, my very best friend was that man’s daughter.
She is a year older than me and was a grade ahead in school. We lived within a mile of each other for our whole lives until she was in high school. We were together constantly, easily six or seven days a week. We had almost the same life. It is impossible to overstate how important she was to me. I loved her and wanted to be just like her.
She has struggled with addiction for more than half our lives now. Our paths diverged in high school and never crossed again. I have seen her a few times at family functions. She never looks like herself. I often see things that remind me of her or that she would like and wish I could text her to tell her. We have very different lives now. But I still miss the person she was.
I visited her today in the hospital. I had appointments in the same hospital where she is a patient. Seeing her today was a jarring experience. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. When I opened the door, she turned toward me. It was the first time in twenty years that she looked like herself. I wondered for the first time if we could ever be close again.
I stayed for a while and caught up with her before going to my appointment. My doctor and I compared my symptoms and talked about how generally improved I am. I enjoyed pretty decent health from June 2015-August 2016. “Your symptoms are more like they were after your surgery,” he commented, referring to my recovery post GI surgery in 2015. He’s right. They are.
I often wonder if the reason why I so often reach into my past to compare the present to is because I am expected to literally do this at every appointment. I’m always looking for changes since the last time I was seen. Or since the last time I felt pretty good. Or since I was diagnosed with mast cell disease. Sickness is assessed by the changes it brings about in your body, and you can only do this by dragging the past into the present.
The past can be the precarious face for the present to balance on. We can never go back. Any of us, for anything, for any reason. It is over. But sometimes it feels like I catch the past in my present. In the drudging of old wounds and deeds, pieces of our old selves and our old lives are conveyed to the now. We can fit these pieces in our growing lives. We can remake lost connections.
Our lives will never spin as freely with these old pieces, weighed down with history. But they can still be strong enough to hold you up.