Quiet Desperation

We are rooted in memory, until it leaves us rootless

Column by Craig Marshall Smith
Posted 8/14/18

One of my readers — “Gary” — thanked me for a column I had written about barking dogs that he mailed to a neighbor, after his own words didn’t make a dent. My column made a dent, and I said …

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Quiet Desperation

We are rooted in memory, until it leaves us rootless

Posted

One of my readers — “Gary” — thanked me for a column I had written about barking dogs that he mailed to a neighbor, after his own words didn’t make a dent.

My column made a dent, and I said “You’re welcome,” but asked him when the column was written — “Maybe I’ve forgotten, and that wouldn’t surprise me, but I don’t recall a recent column about barking and dogs.”

He wrote back and said I wrote it last year.

That was a relief. Then we began a correspondence about memory loss, which can be amusing to a point.

Then — boom — he informed me that his wife had Alzheimer’s, and he cared for her during the final years of her life, and the net effect of this little column of mine came back and waved at me from a hospital room in Rochester, Michigan.

Don’t leave now. I’ll get around to some humor. But this time there won’t be any cynicism or sarcasm.

My father, whom I often mention with love, was kind, and good, and gracious, and something else. He was a gentleman.

He was a proud University of Michigan graduate who took night classes later in his life, and kept sharp and smart, and completed crossword puzzles, even the toughest ones.

Then. Life came along when he was in his 80s and took away most of that.

My sister and I had Power of Medical, but when the time came, my father reclaimed it and I watched a great and wonderful man become something — some thing — I didn’t recognize.

We were separated by five states. I’d see him once or twice a year, and for the longest time he stayed the same.

You can guess the rest.

I hope I won’t end like my father did. But who knows?

This is a Magical Mystery Tour. It’s Rod Serling and his friends. It’s a nightmare and it’s a beautiful dream.

How anyone makes it to the finish line is a Cracker Jack surprise. How anyone makes it intact is a miracle.

“Memory is the diary that we all carry around with ourselves.”

I wish I had said that. Oscar Wilde did.

Oh, Oscar. Were you ahead of your time, and just all wrong to being with?

I wish I had known him over coffee.

We squeeze and we squeeze away the beauty of existence and make it a battle of grace, and grace left on the Super Chief.

I promised humor.

“I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place.”

I wish I had said that. Steven Wright did.

Hemingway said his aim was to write one perfect sentence. He wrote thousands, is what I think.

Me? I am still trying, and I hope I can get one in before the cab comes for me.

Jennifer knows I don’t want to complete in a hospital room, looking like a system of tubes and screens and bed wraps.

I have given her my last song, and where I would like the dust to fly.

“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Bob Dylan. Them's (the group) version. Makes no sense. Like life. And then into the inverted fountain on the UCLA campus. Sweetest spot on Earth, this mortal coil.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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