Friday, July 17, 2009

Guilty as charged.

I've recently been ambushed by a horde of articles with a similar theme.

'If you could call back one ancestor - just one - from the past, who would it be and what would you talk about?'

'If you realized this was going to be the last conversation you'd ever have with the person in front of you, what would you choose to say? And leave unsaid.'

'If you could leave a letter for the future grandchildren you will never meet, what would information about yourself would you include in it?'

'If there is one episode in your life that you wish you would have done differently, how would you do it again?'

Apart from guilting me into the admission that I would be utterly useless in situations like these that require quick wit and the wisdom that probably comes with years of inner reflection, I realized another profound truth. I realized that I am a procrastinator... and well, while I'm at it, so is everyone else in the entire world. There could be a few exceptions and I don't mean to offend any hearts, but it's the truth and that's what the universe was conspiring to tell me by sending these morbid articles one by one into my inbox. So don't blame me. Blame the universe.

Having neatly deflected all responsibility for that rash statement, let me now elaborate on my train of thought. If it wasn't for the sense of complacency that 'things' never happen to us but to other people... that there will be a 'right' time that will announce itself to us for all the things that we plan to do but never get down to doing... that life wouldn't be so unfair as to abruptly end, leaving so many things incomplete, including our own stories that often times piggyback on the stories of the people who surround us... why, if it wasn't for all this cotton fluff in my head, I would have known all the answers to the questions asked in those silly articles.

Q). Which ancestor would I call back?
None, thank you very much. Don't want to have to go through heartbreak twice and say good bye all over again.

Q). Last conversation and what I would say?
I would tell the person all that I have learned from their example.

Q). Letter to the grandkids?
I'll tell them I traveled halfway across the world to be able to marry the man I love - and that the rest of the family back home cried watching the ceremony webcast from the County Clerk's office. Of course, by then 'webcast' must sound antiquated to them so I would have to include a footnote explaining the technicalities involved.

Q). One episode I would do over?
None... my life is what it is because of all that I have done in the past. And I'm very happy with the way it's turned out. There will always be regrets and I'm okay with that.

I don't want to sound smug-alive though. I wish I could do so many things. I wish I could be at home right now - to hold my mother's hand as my father gets some stuff done to him in the hospital. I wish I could tell them how perfect as parents they are. I might have hinted otherwise many times while growing up and have since told them how I have amended that viewpoint... but still, it never hurts to say it again. I wish I could push 'Record' on the video camera just this minute and get them chatting about the past... when they were real people and individuals in their right and not just my 'parents'. I wish I could compensate for their absence and instead turn the spotlight on to my husband's parents - who are in the next room - and get them talking. But I know it's difficult to spill the details of one's life to someone you already know. Which explains why a fellow Video Biographer is actually choosing to hire me to interview her husband - instead of doing it herself. And well, there are a lot of things that I wish I had done earlier... and I feel that's probably true with everyone.

Something always needs to happen... an ultimatum needs to be made... to spur us into action. To give us that final push before we actually commit to doing something we realize needs to be done. Should be done. In fact, should have been done a long time ago. I've been fortunate to meet a lot of nice people in the course of documenting personal and family histories... but sadly, it has more often than not taken a trigger to prompt that move. Whether it's an illness or memory loss, that 'warning' never fails to propel us into taking the first step. And well, it doesn't need to be that way.

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