Amblin' Alameda: The ties that bind

Amblin' Alameda: The ties that bind

Morton Chalfy

Photo by Nevit Dilmen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

April is an emotionally difficult time for me. It contains the birthdays of my deceased brother and my deceased son. My son was killed by a drunk driver 21 years ago this week, just short of his 28th birthday. My brother lost a five-year battle with lung cancer in his mid-50s. Their memories stay alive in the minds of our family as does the pain of their loss.

Fortunately my brother left us a son who is still vibrantly alive and through whom we can all maintain a link to his father. My son left us a daughter who has produced a daughter of her own (now 2 1/2), and is currently working on the production of twin sons due in August, which is right around their big sister's third birthday. What a great birthday present that will be!

And there you have a small slice of the human version of the Ties That Bind. Through our progeny our memories are kept alive. Through our emotional, unrehearsed and heartfelt responses to memory and to the living heirs our connections are kept vibrant and meaningful in our lives. When asked if the memory of loss still hurts, I reply that it certainly does and that I don't want to lose that pain. In that pain is the meaning of the memory and as long as I feel it the ones I've lost are never quite gone.

I'm an older person now and the dead who live in my mind are beginning to give the living a run for the money on the size of the population. The world I lived in has gone, transformed by the onward striving of the generations that have come since mine began retiring. I can see the threads of history that led us to this current state of affairs, and I amuse myself by spinning those threads into a tapestry of an imagined future. I make new friends so that life can be lived in the here and now, but I have to make room for them in my mind next to all my old friends including those no longer living.

When we socialize we talk about the present, how we're doing, how our health is holding up, what's on the docket for the future in our lives and then we talk about our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. When we do it stirs the memories of our lost loved ones and we realize just how strong are the ropes of emotion that tie us to them.

The ties that bind are not material, not chains and ropes, not financial or dutifully familial but emotional. Music and memory are entwined with emotions in our hearts and brains and have proven to be stronger as binders than any chain of any material.