December 2, 2021
Today’s date, rendered in digits (12022021), is a palindrome and an ambigram. It can be read forwards, backwards, and upside down, at least in some fonts.
That’s the kind of amusing item that sprinkles my Facebook news feed, the method I use to keep in touch with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and sometimes random strangers. Among my 800+ “friends” are writers, artists, former students, former relatives, people I’ve known for 70 of my nearly 75 years, people I have never met and likely never will, people who have died, even some entities that are not even people (some schools, church congregations, and at least one cemetery).
Today’s note from The Writer’s Almanac was especially rich. I learned the history of LaGuardia Airport, some facts about three favorite writers (Elizabeth Berg, Ann Patchett, George Saunders) who all mark today as their birthday, and found a poem that has stayed with me all day.
You can read “Regret,” by Lawrence Raab, in its entirety at the The Writer’s Almanac link. Here are two stanzas that particularly engaged me:
Every day there’s something old
to feel sorry about—
what I should have done and didn’t,
or what I did, and kept on doing.
We want to forget
until we start to forget.
We want the past to change,
and we want it back.
Yesterday, via a Facebook message, I heard from a woman who had been my student in 1974, when she was a junior in high school. She’d seen my name on someone else’s comment stream, and thought she remembered me. I had to confess that I had no actual recollection of her. From the fall of 1972 until some time in 1975, I was in the grip of a pervasive clinical depression. I described those days for her:
I would arise at 7 a.m. and in one continuous rolling motion make myself presentable enough to get to school by 7:30. I would function for the next seven hours. Having returned home, I’d be back in bed by 3:30 or 4:00. Sometimes I would wake and see the clock at straight-up 6:00 and not know which 6:00 that was. Thus, you knew me at the worst time in my life. I wasn’t the best teacher or the best person then. I hope I did you no harm.
“Regret” addresses one concern about the sad and broken 25-year-old me that persists:
I want to believe
everyone’s forgotten by now.
Then I picture them thinking back.
She said that she remembers me well, and I’ll take her decision to reach out as an indication that her memories are not unpleasant. May it be thus for others as well.