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Our Story Begins: Saving the Past


Our Story Begins:
Saving the Past

I had a hard drive of mine come to a screeching crash recently.  It’s one of those external drives, plugs into the computer and I’ve had it awhile.  It was big, all I know, both in size and in storage space.  I needed it because I had a ton of stuff I needed to put onto it.

That picture up there I had saved on my phone so I still have it, but some of the others . . . they’re mired in the stalled magnetic media on that drive.  

So . . . why do I care?  What’s so important about a picture or the drive, or what could possibly be on there?

The past is on there.  A lot of our past.  That photo, while the boys look all goofy and young (they were 7) and the girls are certainly younger, doesn’t tell the whole story.  While a picture may be worth 1,000 words, this one doesn’t capture that day, not totally though you might be able to tell what’s going on just by looking.  My oldest had not changed her clothes yet, but four of us had.  We’re all in black.  That photo is of my restructured family, taken just before we left the house to go to my wife’s funeral.

This isn’t the only harsh reality that is now stuck, unseen and unreachable in that hard drive.  I know some of the stuff that’s there.  There are some older Christmas videos, rare shots of my wife in the couple years before she died.  

Related: Our Story Begins: The Strange Benefit of Single Parenting

There are also a handful of videos I found a few years ago that I cannot bear to watch.  In them, my kids record messages to their mother, whom they could not visit because she was in the ICU and she had an infection they couldn’t peg.  Even I had to put on a full gown and mask when I went in to see her.  I started to forego that by the end of her week there, it seemed kind of pointless.  The videos tear me apart.  My sons are in tears, telling their mom to get better, come home soon . . . and with a pleading voice say “I love you mommy.”

Those four words, spoken by those small children, meant to convey encouragement, do nothing but cut open my heart and bleed the color from me.  It is a moment I had forgotten but one that shows me my children knew more was going on than even I knew.

So . . . why would I want to save these things?  What in the hell would possess me to even want to have those clips, those pictures, those memories at the touch of a button and available to see, even if by accident and throwing me down a well of despair?!

These things made me.  These memories, terrible and beautiful, touching and gut-wrenching are part of what made me and my children who we are.  Will I look at those videos again?  Not likely.  I won’t likely look at the sympathy cards and messages and letters that were sent, either.  I have them, though.  All of them.  Stored in an archive box and there should they be necessary.

This is emotional archaeology.  Should my kids, or grandkids, or anyone need to know what shaped us, what made our lives go where they did, I can point to these items and say, without hesitation, that our past, our decisions and the events that happened in our lives made us who we are.

I use a line with my kids I haven’t repeated in awhile: “we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.”  We’re approaching the 6th anniversary of Andrea’s passing.  That would have been 24 years for me being married.  

Losing her hurt.  It hurt more than anything I would want anyone to bear.

But I became a better father.  I became a better man, someone I hope a woman would be proud to call her partner.  I became a stronger, more tolerant, more even person.  I wish that had come organically, without tragedy, but it took that tragedy to shape me.

As Dickens put it: I’m broken and bent, I hope, into a better shape.

So I will salvage this drive . . . and hope that it bears testament in the years to come that I did things right.

How about you.. how do you feel about the past, particularly the things that are hard to revisit?


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