It was a summer party.
“Hey,” I said to the man who had just walked in the doorway. “You almost look like someone I used to know.”
“And look!” I said. “There he is, on the wall!”
He looked up at an old video clip of a wedding, with him in it, and laughed more.
It was one of those strange and serendipitous moments.
I got out of my chair and gave him a hard hug. He had been my Best Man some years ago.
Now we were both in an old farm house in Dundas along with a few dozen others, faces from yesteryear, souls who have intersected with mine and My Bride’s – this all for our Joint 50th Birthday celebration the other day.
And now an even older film on the wall …
… There I am in Berlin. In the bathtub. Good God!
And laughing with my mother – she’s swinging me wildly and lovingly and I’m laughing like mad, looking straight in the camera — one of the few times, recorded or otherwise, that I had with her.
There’s Jean, the little girl around the time she beat up those boys for trying to steal some Halloween Candy.
Then teen years and big hair. Then young adults and a first car. And on it rolled, the video, right up to our wedding, the day when, in her full dress, My Bride stood up and played for a few hundred guests “Surprised by Joy,” a song she had composed for such a surprising moment.
In that old farm house the other day, after the cake, Jean sat at a piano and played it again, just like she did earlier this summer on an old Glenn Gould piano at Rideau Hall.
A woman asked, ‘What’s it called?’
“Surprised by Joy!”
“Oh. From C.S. Lewis,” said the woman.
You have to wonder, though, if that moment that we’ll all come to, that moment of death, if it will be something like this, a film, all so surreal, as if you’re looking at the life of someone else.
Because we live many lives in one, people coming and going in this season and that one. Then these souls return to stand in your doorway and you barely know them any more than you remember with any accuracy your own former self.
Then the realization falls on you, the gentle knowledge that even your past is not yours, not fully, not even your own memories. Even the great memories that you actually record are something to let go.
This, because nothing in your life is meant to be held too close. Or, like anything you try to hold tight, it will slip through your hands like grains of sand on the beach.
It’s all a gift – past, present, unknown future – yours to hold just for a while, nothing more than a mist, really. A vapour.
Just feet from the doorway in that old farmhouse, my aged father sat in an antique chair and watched with some other family members beside him. He watched that old black-and-white film over and over, 50 years, or at least windows looking into 50 years, squeezed into a few minutes.
And in watching, he watched his own life, his own former self in his own younger and stronger years. And in watching he also received, I believe, not only a sense of wonder but some healing too, for this is how it can be for a life that hasn’t been an easy one.
These are the days in which my family finds itself, these warm summer days of life.
Last night, for the first time, we watched the birth of my son, Jonathan. The other day, just before the Big 50th Party, he turned 10. A few days before that, we watched, also for the first time, the birth of our oldest, Elizabeth. She recently turned 12.
These are our summer days of birth.
There we are, just Liz and me, while Mom holds the camera.
I’m holding Liz on my lap – she’s about two days old – and I’m singing “Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
I look to the camera and say, “Someday we’ll be watching this and saying, “Hey, there’s Daddy singing “Jesus loves the little children of the world.” ”
Some summer day.
Of course, not to be forgotten, 14 years ago, My Bride and I wed.
Today is our wedding anniversary.
These summer days.