Back in Time

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. It’s not so much that I have regrets. There are moments I would have paid closer attention to so as not to forget. I wish the present could borrow people from the past. Having lost someone I love (my mother), time is both a gift and a thief. I am grateful for every moment I have lived and all that life has given. I am thankful for time spent with those I love. But time has also taken things from me. It has stolen family members and memories and put an ever-widening chasm between then and now. I cannot return. I can’t live in the past. But sometimes I wish I could go back.

This year has been teeming with nostalgia for me. It’s been more than fourteen years since my mother passed away, and for some reason this year the loss has felt heavier than usual. Perhaps it’s because of other losses I saw loved ones endure that reinvigorated my own. I’m not sure. But I have felt my mother’s absence like a weighty presence lately.

I am acutely aware of the deficit my mother’s death has left in the world. My maternal grandmother’s last days would have been happier, and perhaps not even her last days, if my mother had been caring for her. Similarly, my paternal grandmother, who was rendered bed-ridden by a stroke nearly eight years ago, would be better cared for. I imagine my mother would have moved in with her or brought her to America. There are poor decisions I’m sure my father wouldn’t have made or that my mother’s presence (and wisdom) would have mitigated. Everywhere I look, I see how my family and my life would be better off is she were still here, and as tempted as I am to try and take her place, I am also keenly aware that I can’t—and shouldn’t.

So in some small ways, a part of me wishes I could go back in time. Not to be younger, but to be when she was alive. Perhaps this is why I have been so taken with old movies and TV shows of late. I am transfixed by street scenes from the 70’s and 80’s. The clothes, hairstyles—even the eyeglasses—are soothing to me. It is the closest I can get to time travelling. I can imagine that I watched these shows when my mother was cooking in the kitchen or as my grandmother made Rice Krispies treats. I find a modicum of comfort knowing that when these shows first aired, nothing as precious as a loved one had been taken from me.

I have always been enamored with the past. Among the quotes on my high school yearbook page were the words “I embrace yesterday.” I think on that now and again. There was so much happiness in my younger years—so much love. It is the reason the loss hurts. What I had was wonderful. And life is good now. There is so much to cherish now. That can’t be overstated. My present is overwhelmingly positive. But there are certain losses that no amount of gain can erase. The death of a loved one creates a deficit that’s pervasive.

With my paternal grandparents in the early '80s.

I suspect my mother took this photo of me with my paternal grandparents in the early ’80s.


5 thoughts on “Back in Time

  1. Thank you for writing this, Aabye. I’ve been thinking of the past a bit myself…except some days I think it’s more like the enemy, the accuser, who likes to stir up guilt and regret. But I have thought about different choices I would have made if I knew my mom would pass away this year. Her birthday is next week…so dealing with what would have been is something I wrestle with. But I am going to celebrate the 100 years she almost made. I won’t be robbed of that…

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