Dust

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(We are way off-topic today. Read this or not, your choice, as always.)

I am just old enough to remember three of my great-grandparents, two of them hazily. I recall being on the lap of an incredibly old woman I have always presumed to be my mother’s maternal grandmother, who died when I was two. I have no memory of my father’s paternal grandmother alive, but I can remember going to the funeral home after she died. I was not quite five, a very small person in a forest of very tall people, and I remember a big oblong box. I knew that she had died, but I did not really understand what dead meant.

But by the time my father’s maternal grandmother died, I was 13. I knew what dead meant, having seen the lifelessness of squashed cats and other dead farm animals, and I knew that the same thing could happen to people. But it took her death to make me understand that my parents were going to die someday—and me, too. I remember being very disturbed by it. I have a fragmentary recollection of asking Dad, not long after the funeral, how he felt about death in general and his own dying specifically. He probably told me that I shouldn’t be concerned because it wasn’t going to happen for a long time. That’s what parents say, of course, but they’re not wrong to do so. There will be time enough for a 13-year-old to learn about mortality and metaphysics.

Thing of it is though: the “don’t be concerned” part is still right, even if, after 45 years, the “not for a long time” part isn’t any longer. Dad is nearly as old as his grandmother was in 1973.

(I am pleased to come from a line of long-lived people, but mostly for their sakes. I have a 64-and-out policy for myself—I’m not scared of dyin’ and I don’t really care—but that’s a topic for another day.)

I went to a wake recently for Mike, a former editorial colleague who led a most interesting life. As a young man, he served two tours in Vietnam, during which he received medals for bravery and heroism. His most prized possession was the book of poems he carried with him in Vietnam. Back at home, he was a press officer at the trial of Lieutenant William Calley. His favorite memory of his military service, however, was escorting Jayne Mansfield while she was on a USO tour. In civilian life, he became a professor of journalism, and late in life joined the company where I had my first job in publishing, back in the late 90s. He described himself as a “Ranger-trained assassin and deadline children’s poet,” and no phrase better summed up the man. Many hilarious stories were told about him, both at the wake and afterward, when a group of us went to his favorite restaurant, just down the street from the funeral home.

(Mike gave me the best piece of writing advice I ever received: write like you have been allotted only 11 exclamation points for your entire life, and ration them accordingly.)

I suspect, that when my time comes, the stories told at the kegger I have instructed The Mrs. to throw for me will not be nearly as entertaining as the ones at Mike’s post-wake lunch. And I’m fine with that.

As colorful as Mike was, eventually there will be few people left with direct memories of him, just as there will soon be no one left with direct memories of my three great-grandmothers. I suspect Mike didn’t worry much about that, and I’m sure my great-grandmothers would have found it absurd to even waste a thought on it, coming as they did from a generation without time to contemplate its navel. But it’s going to happen to me, and to you: we’ll pass from living memory, and one day we’ll be forgotten.

And I’m fine with that.

This blog of mine will outlast me, of course, and I suppose that some antiquarian of the future could use it to try and draw conclusions about the lives of middle-aged, middle-class dudes who lived 100 or 500 or a thousand years in the past. But this blog, too, will eventually become part of the digital dust of centuries, neither read nor remembered.

I am fine with that, too. I’m not gonna know one way or the other anyhow.

(Note to Patrons: if you read my other site, One Day in Your Life, please stop over to read yesterday’s post and vote in a poll I’m taking.)

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