Doug Bruns

How many other things can I not know?

In Memoir on March 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I am reading Sarah’s Braunstein’s novel, the sweet relief of missing children. It is a remarkable book, perhaps even brilliant. But that is not what I am writing about this evening. I am writing because in the novel a man pays a visit to the house in which he grew up, saw last when he was sixteen. There is a rap on the door at night and there he stands: “‘I grew up here,” he says. “‘See, I haven’t set foot inside this place since I was–‘ And here he paused, looked down at his feet. He said, ‘Sixteen.'” I read this and realize that I cannot remember the time I left my “growing up home,” cannot remember when it was I rolled down that steep driveway and sped off, not knowing it then, that I would never again cross that transom. What an odd thing, I reflect this evening, to come to realize.

I cannot recall, either, the last memory of my mother alive. I think I know, but I cannot be sure.

How many other things can I not know?

Several years ago, maybe two or three, maybe four, I took my elderly father back to Indiana to visit his brother. I spent the day–it had been maybe twenty years since I’d been in Ft. Wayne–I spent the day alone, driving around town, visiting my old haunts. My high school. Driving past Kelly’s house, my old girlfriend. The YMCA, now replaced. And so forth. And of course, the homestead on Bolton Ave. Or was/is it Drive? I went to Bolton and parked on the street and peered up at the house. It is a modest house and sits on a small hill, more like a knoll. I sat there and noticed that the bay window curtains were drawn. Then I left.

At the end of the day, I returned. One last look. And while looking, the curtain of the bay window pulled back so slightly, and someone looked back at me–me there in the street looking at the house where I had been raised, and sitting, inviting the memories to wash over me, interrupted by the woman–it was a woman, elderly–looking back at me. And I turned the ignition in the rental car and drove off.

Tonight I sit here, many years later still, and realize I cannot recall when I walked out of that house for the very last time. I wonder too, at how many things are the last, and the knowledge of that escapes me and will likely never be realized.

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