On the Corner
by Robert Docter –
The Jellicle cats sing their songs at night, outside on the street. One, Grizabella, in yesteryear, a glamorous and attractive feline now significantly passed her prime, dreams softly in the
night as clouds move past the moon.
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan.
All alone in the moonlight;
I can smile at the old days.
I was beautiful then.
I remember the time I knew what happiness was,
Let the memory live again.
Like Grizabella, my memories live longer these days. They come in the night, re-awakened more often now as years claim their required places in my mind. A nostalgic loneliness makes its presence known and delivers its usual warm pain in my chest.
Countless images of episodes and events spring from the intricacies of my long term memory. They speed through my mind as structures – some warm, some cool – some soft, some hard – some pleasant, some not. They are triggered by who knows what – a casual conversation, a repeated story, an old song or band tune.
I choose to slow some down and revel in the feelings they trigger. Some images burst on the scene like bright flashbulbs, loaded with strong feelings that reveal once again significant events from the near and distant past.
I see my parents in some pleasant setting, and as I do, I flash on the lovely male smell of my father and see myself enclosed in a giant bear hug and hear his playful, loving laughter. My mother looks on with a protective mood and a generous laugh and says: “Not too rough, Lloyd.” My brother is always present, often making it a double hug. This triggers flashes of a multitude of times over the years during which his generosity of spirit, time, resources, and never ending advice pours forth. He always brings a smile with him to my face. His family has caught the same lavish, generous ethic.
My present and past are filled with the magnificent munificence of Diane. She brings center and solidity to my life and encourages me daily. Each day forms new memories. The image of her over 60 years ago when I first met her still reverberates within me – a Native American princess, tan and lovely, a beautiful face, a fantastic figure, an open and friendly personality, an intelligence matched by a strength of commitment. I remember saying to myself: “This is someone I need to get to know much better.” I did, and my life is filled and completed by her complete sacrificial love. Our six children, their spouses, and our fifteen grandchildren have some of her qualities and some of mine. They add memories moment by moment.
I am so intertwined with the Army that many of my memories in the night contain uniforms and bands and stages and the adrenalin rush of a solo or speech. Particular people within the Army often give focus to my memories – Bill Morris, who taught me how to play a horn – Bill Parkins who showed me what could be done – Guy Case, a saint with calluses –-great friends like George and Joy Church – Bob and Maryann Tobin – a raft of great leaders like Paul and Kay Rader – Bill, Grace and Bob Bearchell – they all have revealed a bond of friendship close to brotherhood.
I could stay here in the night, luxuriating in the smells and sounds, the losses and gains, the challenges and triumphs. I sense seduction, however, working her wily, wicked ways through my consciousness and laugh. I will not be seduced through feeling’s mighty power into living in the past. “The past is a bucket of ashes.” I choose to live in the present. Like Grizabella, contemplating through the night, waiting for …
I must wait for the sunrise,
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in.
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory, too,
And a new day will begin.
… and to you, I ask …
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun.
If you touch me,
You’ll understand what happiness is
A new day has begun.
(Portions of the song Memory from the musical Cats, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber lyrics by Trevor Nunn based on the poetry of T. S. Eliot)