Thursday, 19 July 2012

The memory that won't be included

I've always thought of myself of being invisible.

I wonder now if that's quite true. I may be something rather worse: omnipresent. Somewhere near the end of my undergraduate years, a friend was searching for me at a party. Every person she met said, "Oh, she's here somewhere..."
But I wasn't. I hadn't been invited.

I've had people tell me I've been to school with them since Grade One. I was in Edmonton in Grade One and didn't come to Victoria until the beginning of Grade Four. Furthermore, I transferred to another elementary school for Grade Six and it has been alumni of this second school who are most likely to "remember" me as always being there, even though there's no way they could have a memory of me at age six.

That's me, I guess. Ubiquitous. Every now and then I get a breath-taking glimpse of just how insignificant I am in someone else's life.

Well, we can't be important to everybody. Unless we're fabulously powerful, or popular, or famous. I suspect no one fitting that description is reading this blog. You'd be too busy off somewhere being in demand. (I have, for the record, experienced fleeting periods of being in demand. It was exhausting.)

Today, I sat in a coffee shop with a friend I haven't seen for eight years. We had a lot of catching up to do about our own lives, but also recounting our separate experiences of the death of a mutual friend five years ago. She was our contemporary, and my friend is very close to the young daughters who lost their mother while still very small and, in their teens, are finding it harder and harder to remember.

She wants to put together a book of memories featuring stories and pictures from various schoolmates, colleagues and friends. I agreed enthusiastically; this is right up my alley, and I am still in regular contact with those of us who went to high school and university together.

With tears in her eyes, my friend told me of how her life had fallen apart after the death, of how she couldn't bear to see the same people I see almost every year when I return to Victoria to see Demeter. That has included me up until now, I guess.

"I hadn't realized how much I depended on her to keep me in the circle," she said.

As we talked further, I found myself considering how to collect what was needed for her memory book. I took many pictures back then; those will need to be uploaded when I get back to Hades and my diaries should have several anecdotes in them that I can share.

One story I'll be keeping to myself, but it's what comes to mind whenever I hear the name of this long-lamented mother and friend.

She happened to be on the same bus one weekend when I was traveling to Vancouver for one of my Masters in Education seminars. I was delighted to see her because I hadn't had much of an opportunity since graduation. She had gone to two remote BC communities to teach, working her way slowly into seniority and back to Victoria.

As I got ready for my stop which was one of the ones before the bus depot, I told her that she must come to dinner sometime.

"Oh, you don't need to keep inviting me to dinner," she laughed as I shouldered my bag. "We've really only ever been campus casual."

As I staggered down the aisle and tumbled out the bus, it was only partially due to the weight of my luggage. I'd known her for years, considered her a friend. It can be startling to learn how little you mean to a person. I suppose she thought she was being kind. She could be very kind; even after this, we shared a child-birthing class for both our second daughters, she gave the party when I left for Hades (although, come to think of it, our departure was not the reason), and invited me to her house whenever I came back to Victoria.

No, I'll skip that story for her daughters' memory book. I was never as close a friend as my companion in the coffee shop this morning, but there is a certain advantage of being the one on the periphery, the one that is always there and not always seen nor thought of. An omnipresent person is the observer, the storyteller.

Omnipresent like God, who, come to think of it, is also invisible. However God is also omnipotent and immortal, so that's where the comparison falls down.


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Ouch - that's a potent story there; it highlights that perception is everything. We may perceive that we are close to someone but from their perspective we're just 'campus casual'. Similarly, if the awareness comes to light, how would someone feel to find out that someone they felt to be on the fringes of their world, saw them as central to their being.

I'm reminded of a Wallander story - adapted for tv twice, with both Kenny B and the magnificent Krister Henriksson. If you know the narrative I mean, you'll know what I'm on about as Wallander realises how little he knew about his colleague.

Three's nothing wrong with being the Storyteller though: unless you're Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Best wishes with collating the book of memories.

Winnie said...

I am sorry...That must have hurt. I have learned over the years that friendships run deeper to some than others. I have some great long turn friends, but some of the other who I thought were really drifted away. I had a sick husband and at one point things got so rough for me..some held fast, others "couldn't deal" and that is ok. When I was then widowed, it made some of my friends "uncomfortable"...They were 40 like me and didn't want to be reminded about what could happen etc. I know celebrate the ones who stuck and try to be the same kind of friend. That is all I can do..

Persephone said...

Thanks, Lisa. I've done these kind of projects before, and although I don't know her daughters well, I remember their mother well enough to pass along some pieces of her.

It's a similar thing when one has a special needs child, Winnie, some people will edge away because they have no idea how to deal with it. I have my own weak areas, so I try to remember that. And you do find out who the gems are in your life, which is helpful.