The other day I was sifting through a box of old items I could somehow not let go of. They were the last and fading grip on my childhood you might say. There was my first bowling trophy, which was more a recognition of my participation than my actual talent for the game. There was also my first pinewood derby car painted black with yellow stripes—my first father and son project. Then, stuck to the bottom of the cardboard box lay a copy of the Daily Word magazine, a collection of daily affirmations published monthly out of Lee’s Summit. The cover and pages were just as stiff and sticky as the day I received this publication in the mail from my grandmother. I put this in the box over twenty years ago because I imagine I told myself I would one day be mature enough to realize I needed the words of wisdom written in it.
Frankly, at sixteen years of age, all I thought I needed in life was gas in my tank and enough money in my wallet for a burger and movies with my friends on a Friday night. But, more than the combined satisfaction of these luxuries, I have come to realize that what I’ve needed most from my youth are the memories it holds. I never truly understood what value one really gains in reflecting on and appreciating the memories in his or her life until this past year in what I felt was an act of juggling for my life. I was trying to manage chemotherapy treatments, the loss of a child, and reassuring my daughter that I would be there for her the next morning. And, what does one’s mind do while his or her body is immobilized by intravenous tubes of kamikaze-like medicine that kills every cell in its path, whether that cell is good or bad? It remembers. In my case, I remembered the good old days of my youth. And, sadly enough, it took this course of events in my life for me to realize the value of being grateful for the good old days. In fact, reflecting on my youth was the sense of reprieve I needed from the depression that was keeping pace with my family’s bad luck.
It was after about the third treatment when the honeymoon with chemotherapy was over that I decided I needed to think about something other than how bad I would feel over the next week. I thought back to the days of sleeping in plastic chaise lounges in the back of my best friend’s rusted 1957 Chevrolet pickup. We’d scare ourselves to stay awake with true crime stories of killers in small towns still on the loose then soothe ourselves back to reality by the sounds of rustling leaves in the trees that, to me, was akin to the gentle clapping hands of a child offering his or her applause for the beauty of the night. And when the tape of that memory finished playing in my mind I’d think back to the memories of stealing dad’s spot in bed after he awoke to fetch the morning paper. I’d take in the aroma of his Old Spice still lingering on his pillow as I assumed, in my mind, that I was now the man of the house upon commandeering his throne.
It’s too bad they never labeled me a child prodigy in my gift for daydreaming because it has paid off. I can’t imagine how miserable chemotherapy and grieving would have been without the ability to reflect on the good memories of my life. When my time does come, it may just be a good memory that makes my departure and arrival a little easier. Thank you Grandma, Lee’s Summit, and the Daily Word for imparting this realization on an otherwise stubborn mind.