This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future. My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss. But the sadness is past. The responsibilities of the living is what remains.
I was born while Eisenhower was President. I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon. I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle. And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11. It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.
The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people. We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.
The fiction I write is not contemporary. It is mostly historical fiction. It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives. It does not cross the border into the 21st Century. The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination. It is my duty to connect the past to the future.
And I share that duty with everyone who is alive. My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world. But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too. I am steeped in the past in so many ways… And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen. It is a grave responsibility. And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.
In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on. There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future. Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages. And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive. So here is my duty for the day. One more window has been opened.