Last night I dreamed that I had gone to some event which included a play, and when I left I couldn’t find one of the several pairs of shoes I had taken with me. It was in some country place I didn’t recognize; it was hosted by a bunch of older men and women I didn’t know. I was younger than I am now. I remember being in a building where we all walked around, talking to people and listening to them. They were all country people and they knew each other. I was with a couple of my cousins, or at least they were there, too.
My aunt Mary and her mother, whom they always called Nanny, were supposed to have been in a play, though I realized later that they hadn’t been in the play I saw. I mostly remember walking around in the building, which was like a hollow square on the inside, and I just walked the four external hallways, the inside lines of the square. At one point I found I was holding something I’d picked up or been handed at some other point; I was leaving the building with it still in my hand, and someone said no, you can’t leave with that, it has to stay here. And they took it from me and took it back inside. And I thought, that’s okay, I didn’t mean to leave with it, and I went looking for my shoes.
And though I remembered taking off more than one pair of shoes that evening, at different points, and thought that it would be ok, I’d find them later… and was walking around in my socks… when I went to leave, I could find only one of the pairs of shoes I’d had, the oldest pair, the most worn out, a pair of black Merrells, the original slip-on kind. And I thought I’d also had a newer pair of the same kind and was looking for them (and I really have had several pairs of this same shoe, as they are flimsy and wear out quickly).
And at this point I begin to wake up, I think, and I realized that the good pair of shoes I was really missing was another pair of Merrells, gray ones, newer and much better constructed. In real life, I still have those shoes, and they are my favorite, I think. And with the realization that it was those shoes I was missing, came the understanding that I was really missing something, that I had really lost something of value. And then I realized that I hadn’t seen my Aunt Mary or her mother Nanny in the play, and that I was very disappointed in that, because that was why I’d come. And I thought maybe I should go see her, because I’d missed her then; and then the thought came to me that I couldn’t do that, because she was dead, she died last year. And then I was out of the dream and I lay not yet awake, between worlds.
And then I thought about my Aunt Mary, remembering her when she was young, or younger, and her husband, my Uncle Phillip, who died young, too young, younger than I am now. Uncle Phillip was my father’s brother; my father died a little over three years ago. I thought of how the defining event of the life of that generation was the Great War in which they fought. My father was in the US Coast Guard, which fought with the Navy; he was on a fire-fighting ship, and was injured in one of those battles that were the mop-up after Midway. It was just his knee, which was always bad after that; he could never run again, but other than that, he was OK. He was in the hospital at Pearl Harbor when we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then the war ended. Uncle Phillip was in the Army; he was an MP in Patton’s Third Army, and he went in at Normandy, not in the first wave but in the wave that went after, and helped maintain order. Or that’s the story that I remember. He died when I was too young to have had any idea what that was like, to ask him; although I was close to age that he would have been, back then.
And WWII, I think, defined the lives of those people, because they came back, and had families, but that was the defining event, the pivotal event, the part that changed the World forever, and they were right there, the ones doing the changing, although they did it at someone else’s behest. Everything after, the parts that were good, was just living their lives, with their memories.
And me? Now that I remember coming here. I think on what I’ve been doing, and I realize I’ve played Blind Man’s Bluff; brought here, spun all around so that I remembered nothing, and lied to, nothing but lies, because lies were all the people around me knew. And disoriented, going down to my knees, and then standing up and feeling my way. And then at one point, not so long ago, waking up, or waking up part of the way, like one does from a dream, or at least the blindfold ripped off. And seeing the lie, that lie that had played with all their lives, how they’d been used, and lied to, what they’d really been the instrument of doing. And how we all live in the lie that they made.
And now that I see, that the War in which they fought, they fought for evil, and evil won, and evil tells the story and spins the tale. And we are Through the Looking Glass, for sure. They were the Good Generation, but not the Greatest one, because they were used, used for their naivete, for they were more naive, more innocent than their fathers. They were the children of the Depression, and their parents were the adults of the Depression, and the parents knew, they had Learned, but they couldn’t say, I think. Just like my Dad couldn’t say; he remembered all the dead Japanese floating in the Pacific. And I don’t know what my Uncle Phillip knew or had seen there, in Europe, in Patton’s Army. We never talked about it.
Patton knew, or came to know, and he was killed for it. But Patton was a man who remembered past lives, or thought he did. He came to know who we worked for and what we had done, and he was very sad, I think.
This morning I do miss my Aunt Mary; she died last March, and only now I think I know that she’s gone. And all the others too, I think, the ones that never knew, or knowing, knew not to say – I’ll never know, maybe, which was which. But they lived in the most pivotal of times, and they knew that, I think, and we just live in the aftermath, like dead men waiting for the play to end.
And I find that I’ve stood up from my Blind Man’s Bluff, and I wonder if that’s why I came here – some sort of initiation, that I be spun around, and left to see if I could find my way home.
And having done that, do I pin the tail on the donkey, or let him go? And am I done, or is there another game I have to play, now that I’m awake? Or is it time to go home? I don’t think so, not quite yet. Because there are some here I still love, and at least one who needs me. But I think we always feel that way, and we always have to leave, anyway.
With homage to Jack Kerouac, who always wrote this way, I think, and he was of that generation, and who knows what he knew, finally?