It is sobering when you stand at the gravesite of your last surviving parent. First, you realize,whether you’re seven or seventy, that you’re an orphan. Secondly, as you watch the casket descend, you realize you’re next.
If you are the oldest sibling, you are also aware that you’re the only one who knows the names of all the people in those old family photos. I always wondered why I would discover albums full of photographs in dumpsters, or sold at yard-and-estate sales. At one time, these folks were loved, or made great apple pie, drank themselves to death, wore false teeth, or lost an arm in a war or a threshing machine accident.
The pictures wind up in the trash because nobody remembers who they were. You only exist as long as there is someone who remembers you. Then you blink out.
I am now that rememberer. This came to mind the other day when I came across a picture of my fourth birthday party. In this case, though, I remember who the people in the picture are. But I cannot remember what was going on behind the lens that would have produced the looks on all our faces.
I am the kid in the middle, the party girl, looking dubious. The others seem disgusted or frightened. Nobody seems very jolly or happy they came. There are no presents,no cake, no ice cream in view. And there’s not a soul left that I can ask why or what happened. The photographers have blinked out. I will never know the story of the Absolutely Horrible No Fun Fourth Birthday Party of Little Linda Moser. I know that isn’t a big earth-shaking event. But it does remind me that the end of the world is just a blinking out that comes to all of us.