Was he really that nice?
Was she really that mean?
Were times really that good?
I am asked these types of questions all the time.
People read my newspaper columns and wonder did the memories I write about really happen the way I remember them. Then, when they see me, their questions begin. Most of their questions are about people we both knew and, sometimes, have slightly different recollections of.
“I remember her,” one person may recall. “She was pushy and had to have everything her way.”
And my response might be, “Well, I thought she was a bit wishy-washy.”
“Really?” the person is likely to respond with a dumbfounded stare. “We have to be talking about two different people or you have amnesia.”
I don’t have a problem when I encounter someone whose memories differ from mine. That’s because, like beauty is in the eyes of the person looking, memories are scripted in the minds of the person remembering.
During the past eight years, I’ve had the sometimes arduous task of scripting memories for my niece, Kennadie, because she doesn’t have her own memories of her dad, who passed July 16, 2008 when she was a year and eight months old.
My brother Ken’s two sons were older – 10 and 21, when he passed, so they remember him. Sometimes, I have to fill in the blanks for them, but their memories of him are mostly their own.
When I’m with Kennadie, she often makes “if my dad was here” comments, but she doesn’t ask me a whole lot of questions about him. I think it’s because, even though she’s a little girl, she’s wise enough to know that her uncle has not fully found that happy place when it comes to remembering her dad.
However, this past weekend during our family reunion weekend in Jacksonville, she couldn’t resist bombarding me with questions about him. I think hearing family members, young and old, talking about Ken, made her want to know more.
I answered most of her questions truthfully.
“Did my daddy come to the family reunions?” she asked. “And did he have fun?”
“Yes and yes,” I answered.
“Did my daddy talk a lot?” she asked.
My uncle Moon didn’t give me time to answer. “Yes, and that’s where you get all that mouth from,” he responded.
My responses to a few questions were sugarcoated.
“Did you and my daddy argue a lot?” she asked.
“No,” I told a little white lie.
We argued all of the time. It wasn’t because we didn’t get along. It was because I was the big brother who thought it was my job to always tell my two younger brothers what to do.
Kennadie’s questions didn’t cease.
By the time we made it back home, she had relived some of the 42 years I spent with her dad. She knew how fun loving he was and how nitpicky he could be. She knew his favorite color and his favorite sayings. She knew how much he loved his family and how much we loved him. And she knew he wasn’t perfect.
Memories are scripted by the person remembering them, so the brother I remember is the dad she will remember.
And, in his absence, that’s what he would have wanted.