When I drowned; when the canoe filled and then dragged me with it to the bottom in response to me thinking that a slight tug would bring it back to the surface. When the whirlpool made me topsy turvy, and my sneakers had no bite even if I did know which way was up. My entire life really did take static shape (I know no time could have passed, since I'm still alive). Each event, each person, each season was there in an eternal present before I took my last gasp.
And now my children's lives, stowed in the dumpster, have passed me by too. The toys, the birthday cards, the things I'd forgotten that I'd given them, the things I never knew they saved. Plays written on paper, computer stories, games we'd played, trainsets, dolls, marbles, clothes. Each one a pinpoint. Each one eternal. Each one now departed.
I am not a story corps kind of guy, I don't think. That framing of a voice, which has so much power to reveal its surprising truth, succumbs too much to temptations of immortality. As though if the medium were perfected, the truth also could endure.
On my bedroom door now, a print from a former student, attributed to Zhao Lihong. I remove it now for you, dear reader, and store it with my other books, and a few precious things of my childrens' childhood:
Those engraved on rocks
May not last forever;
Those printed words
May not be immortal
Yet, that which flits by like cloud or smoke
Does not necessarily vanish;
That which falls like a meteor
Does not necessarily depart.
And there among the dress-up clothes was my daughters infant outfit, sized for a small doll. She is grown now and enjoying the challenges of hard work. And a card celebrating my birthday, from her sister, to the man who is old enough to "make shit up" and that was many years ago before I had an excuse. She's off to college.
I was stopped.
I carry on.
It needn't be perfect. The love is plenty.