It has happened countless times: in the middle of a yoga pose, chapped heels pressed against the bubbly surface of my mat, arm stretching towards the ceiling, I am suddenly assailed by a memory, a bright, stinging arrow from the distant past.
These memories are distinct from the normal chatter of my restless mind, that weary chorus I know so well: What will I… Why did he… When will it…
These vivid, emotional scenes unreel in rapid motion, short films projected on the screen of my skull. Where is memory stored, I wonder? In the dusty crease of a hip joint, to fly out when that joint is eased open? Or is it the angle of light against the studio wall that flashes against my brain and triggers a memory of the same light on a different day, millions of minutes and thousands of hours ago?
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
I'm still living in Oregon, driving a short distance to visit an elderly couple I dearly love. Silver-haired, bright-eyed, they both speak with faint Scottish brogues, rolling their r's, a gentle purr that prowls beneath their sentences.
He was the pastor of the church my family attended while I was a teenager; he and his wife singled me out from my brothers and sisters. “If you didn't already have such wonderful grandparents,” they said, “we'd want you to be our granddaughter.”
They were both dapper dressers; he, in trousers creased razor-sharp, shoes shined, shirt crisp; she, in tweed skirts and ruffle-necked blouses with pearl buttons. When he squeezed my hand in his, I could feel the bones of his knuckles. She would often wrap her arm around my waist, pressing her soft, wrinkled cheek against my shoulder. Unused to such affection, I stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do, not wanting to move an inch.
It was he who met me at the front of the church one Sunday morning when I walked down the aisle during the closing hymn, declaring my decision to be baptized. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he said, his hand on my back as he guided me out of the water several weeks later.
Whenever I went to visit them, they sat close together, knees touching. They recalled the story of their courtship in exultant voices, stealing glimpses at each other, tears pooling in the corners of their eyes. She sent cards after every visit, covering the white space in her neat, looping script: Thank you for coming to see us. We love you. We pray for you and thank the Lord for you every day.