Ghosts

The weight of expectations is heavy, and in families, heavier than in most places. Old rooms, old hallways, old photographs and corners, that’s where old dust goes to rest undisturbed.

The people we’ve lived closest to, and loved in the desperate way that only children know how to love, they always have some of that dust in their eyes. They see so much of the past when they look at us, so much of their own hopes, either realized or unfulfilled; so much of their fears evaded or accepted. We, too, begin to find our eyes failing for all the dust, old patterns somehow walking and living with volition inhibited by what we’re looking for, the characteristic markings of people we’ve known, who’ve changed in our absences.

Time is always going somewhere, and we are riding the tide, and it’s wrong to think we should always be looking ahead. Something in us needs to look back, too, at least a little, at least sometimes. The human spirit cannot nourish itself only on the future. We need the past, however, cracked and dirty and forgettable it is. Our mistakes, our stupidities, we need them. They comfort us.

But we need others to put them away, to forget them a little for us. We need our failings to be ours alone. Love, familial love, and I suspect the kind of love a couple learns together over many years, is letting people own their mistakes and failures and stupidities for themselves alone. Not to haunt them with those failings. Letting people haunt themselves a little, then throwing open the windows and letting light clear the air a little, to the now and the tomorrow.

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