Living with Echoes

Sitting in a cafe recently  I glanced around myself to check the lie of the land before reading my newspaper.  My eye was caught by some old boy also sitting on his own. His clothes seemed as old as he did: clean and brushed, but worn and giving him  an air of someone  not unduly fussed by the opinions of others.  Sensing my gaze he looked up at me. I raised my eyebrows in a silent hello and he smiled. Nothing was said.  The look was timeless  but it made me think

Sometimes in the way I check for my keys or reach to smell the fragrance of a flower I find my mother coming alive in the actions of her son  At one and the same time we can be ourselves,  and a part of our ancestors.  Their genes, their lessons, those odd habits which puzzled us when we were small suddenly re surface as we get older and force us to smile. We can’t believe our parents live on in us.

Of course they knew this all along,  when our young selves criticised theirs.   They smiled, remembering how they felt the same outrage in their youth. It’s strangely comforting to know that so a loved figure is still with us in the way we hold a tea-cup or look out of the window or try to remember some detail. My father died when I was quite young.  When I started work someone asked me if I was any relation to him. I had never spoken or interacted with this person, but just in the way I walked and in my look I rang a bell in her mind. She had been his secretary  many years before and here, out of the blue,  he seemed to walk again.

Who knows what distant ancestor’s behaviour we mirror while thinking our behaviour all our own. In those photographs and films we see of older generations dealing with bygone problems  we see our own emotions caught on camera. Look in the eyes of that  fellow moving there. as the black and white film plays before our eyes,. Watch that man leaving the factory gate, released for the day and now joking with his friends, or searching the horizon . Living the moment unaware of the future which is now us now looking back at him. The timeless struggle in which we are all joined evokes our common humanity and reminds us that we are all, in some ways , one family.

Could we all meet, in some distant resting place. Now all the same age, say 65, and say to each other, generation to generation, without the defence of age or parenthood,” so what was the value of your time”. Perhaps we would be more understanding of our parents, and our ancestors, acknowledging  their lives, and accepting  the very frailties which now mark our own passage on this earth.  When we rail against the conduct of our children, or our parents, I think of this.  Is it possible that forgiveness is the better part of understanding. With this in mind, as I left the cafe I went up to the old man sitting at his table. “It’s not all bad is it ” I said. “No it isn’t” he replied and we both smiled


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, community, creative writing, Life, old age, Relationships and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Living with Echoes

  1. As I get older, I appreciate more and more what my mother did for my sisters and me (she was widowed and raised us on her own). As my son ages, I see signs that maybe someday we’ll have the kind of relationship in which he will want to understand me the way I want to understand him. He’s not there yet at the tender age of 26. The generations don’t have to separate us, but they can and they do. Until, as you say, some flicker of our parents shows up in what we say or do. Then we are reminded of the bond that can’t be severed.

    Nice post, Peter. I think I call my mom!


  2. winsomebella says:

    I occasionally glance in the mirror or notice myself doing something and think “I am becoming my mother.” There was a time in my life that thought bothered me. But now, it makes me happy to think that :-).


  3. Barbara says:

    I sometimes find myself thinking I’m becoming my grandmother which I wouldn’t mind all that much. She essentially raised me, and I adored her. I only hope I don’t physically begin to look like her or I’ll need an entirely new wardrobe.
    You have a great eye for the intricacies of life Peter.


  4. mysending says:

    I was thinking along the same lines today, as I thought of what to write/say to my newest granddaughter, how we channel the past towards the future. Thank you for all of your beautiful writing.


  5. Al says:

    It is odd now that you mention it. Those idiosyncrasies that mark our heritage are also on display in our offspring. I see myself as well as my ancestors in my children and grandchildren on a regular basis. What a fascinating topic to reflect on!

    As for your message to the older gentleman, “it’s not all bad is it?” that’s a mantra that we should say to ourselves as well.


  6. judithhb says:

    The things we say do get passed on through generations – I remember being told by a sturdy 3 year old grandson who was sending me to my room “I don’t want to hear it. Just go to your room”. Shades of my mother, my daughter’s mother and my grandson’s mother. And the family face – do you know that poem Heredity by Thomas Harding – ” I am the family face; Flesh perishes, I live on,…” Thanks for a thought provoking post as always.


  7. renxkyoko says:

    As ever , very insightful. At the moment the only thing I can think of that makes me my Mom’s daughter is our mutual love for classic rock. Both of us sing to Beatles song in the car to our heart’s content, real loud.


  8. nelle says:

    So true. On an even larger scale, imagine our life is actually an unbroken chain of life going back to the origins of it on this planet. Any interruption of the chain across untold millions of years, we aren’t here today.

    On the modest scale of our immediate ancestors, we do rebel, we do seek our own identity, and perhaps that is a good thing, for with it comes perspective absent if the one track was all we knew.


  9. Aurora HSP says:

    Beautifully written. Love it. I tagged you but if you don’t want to join, it’s all good 🙂 Details


  10. redheadmouth says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I think you are right-“forgiveness is the better part of understanding.” Thanks for continuing to write.


  11. eof737 says:

    What a poignant piece… I kept reading that line over and over again… You know, the one where your dad’s former secretary recognized something in your gait. As I read this post, I felt a tinge of sadness… You see, I’m the only member of my extended family in the US and I never get comments like that… BUT your post reminded me of my visits and time spend back home where everyone I met; friend or stranger, noticed something about me that was tied to my parents or ancestral line… TY! 🙂


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