Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Memory Crystallizes

When we least expect it, memory crystallizes.  We have no choice. We put pen to paper and come to terms with all it evokes.  Such is the "alchemy of memoir."  An overused expression, perhaps, but one that conjures the magic of  memoir.

When I began my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat - a love story about my late husband, John Cavalieri, and me -  I had no idea what I might unearth as I put into words the defining relationship of my life.  Even now, I have trouble explaining the extraordinary treasures I found along the three-year journey to complete the book.  But let me try.

First off, I began discovering that I could let go of the guilt and despair and grief I had carried for years. Like a river, life ebbs and flows. I could either float along and yield to the currents beyond my control, or die.

Then the best treasure. In a carton long ago packed away, John's unpublished 307-page memoir, Cancer versus Honor: A War of Wills, beckoned.  It had been years since I had seen it  As I began reading late into the night, I was transported.  It was as if John were in the room, once again talking to me.
John had written.

Even from a distance of twenty yards, there was an air about the way this tall blond woman carried herself.  She was confident and self-assured.  She was almost past me when I stopped her.  Up this close, I wasn't disappointed.  Her blond hair was fine and natural and cascaded freely onto her shoulders.  She wore large sunglasses. Her lips were sensuous and inviting.
"Hi, you must be Susan?"
"Yes, are you John?"
She pulled off her sunglasses to reveal large beautiful green eyes.  She smiled.  I was staring.
"So, you're Paula's roommate."
"Yes, we share a house about four blocks from here."
"Nice."
This conversation was going nowhere and I was beginning to sweat.  This was not going well at all.  Susan saved me.
"Listen, I have to run. Call me sometime.  We can get together for a drink."
Just like that she was gone.  I was left there with the smell of her perfume still in the air.  I sniffed the air like some horny old dog. I called her and a week later we found ourselves headed to Montreal, Canada.

I was hearing in his words how he felt the first time we met. I heard his inimitable sense of humor!  Memoir is our legacy. Memoir is magic. Memoir is a gift to those we love and those we have left behind.
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