Sometimes I scribble little notes to myself–mostly on pieces of paper, but increasingly, on a little electronic notepad on my smartphone. Sometimes they are prompted by observations while walking, sometimes by a passage read in a book, sometimes by a scene in a movie. Sometimes they make sense when I return to them a little later, and an expanded thought based on them finds its way into my writing–perhaps here on this blog, or elsewhere. But sometimes, when I look at them, they make little or no sense. I have no idea what prompted them, and they find their way into a physical or virtual wastebasket. This forgetfulness stems, in part, from their provenance. When I write them down, I am possessed by a panic that the momentary thought will disappear, leaving no trace behind. So, cutting corners, I rush to commit to permanence. Haste makes waste indeed. Or rather, anxiety does.
Here is one such cryptic missive: “A few years after I became older than my father, I met him again.” I do not know what this means, I do not know what inspired this line. But let me see if I can make some sense of it.
I am now older than my father. I became older than him in September 2010. Indeed, if I could be bothered to do so again, I could calculate the exact date on which I did so. It had been a little obsession of mine–this going past my father in the chronological stakes–in the days and months leading up to it. It marked a strange supersession–I had racked up more days on this planet than he ever managed. Once I passed that magic marker, every day beyond it bore a curious stamp: it was associated with an age my father had never experienced. (It is for this reason, of course, that I cannot imagine my father as an old man; he always appears as a young man in the images I associate with him, even as he became prematurely balding in his late thirties.) So, now, even as I experience some of the same bodily and mental changes he underwent in the forties, I can also surmise, optimistically, that I will have some experiences he never underwent.
But I have no idea what “I met him again” means. Perhaps he had starred in one of my dreams, appearing as he normally does, a shadowy figure, not quite distinct, all too easily morphing into the background, becoming hidden again, a quick vision, a quick obscurity. Or perhaps I meant it more figuratively, as an encounter with something I associate indelibly with him: Russian literature, military aviation, or his gloomy prognostication, made back in the seventies, that the coming century would see increasingly bloody and intractable conflict between the haves and the have-nots. Or perhaps, it might just be that one day I looked at my daughter and saw some distinctive feature which announced her genetic inheritance. At that moment, perhaps, I saw, just for an instant, my father all over again.