Fading Memories: Leslie Hauser talks family and loss

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Last summer marked the ten-year anniversary of my aunt’s death. I’ll never forget the last time I saw her alive. My parents and I just finished a round of golf with my uncle. My aunt didn’t play golf, but on this particular afternoon, she met us at a restaurant near the course for drinks after the round. She sparkled. That’s what I remember. Her blond hair was especially golden that day, and her bright blue eyes danced in step with her laughter, accentuated by the bright blue paisley shirt she wore. Or was it a blue-checkered shirt? No, I think maybe it had a blue floral design.

You see, I can’t remember anymore.

I thought I’d never forget that day, but it’s happening little by little. As the years pass, the photo in my memory is dissolving, and details that were once so clear are fuzzy and even lost completely. And that scares me. What if someday I lose that memory of my aunt entirely?

It’s this idea of how our memories fade that I wanted to explore with Ivy in Chasing Eveline .We are often so sure of ourselves, saying I’ll never forget this moment. But we have no control over that clarity. Time is ultimately in charge. Ivy’s mom has left her, and all she has are her memories. But after two years, the details in Ivy’s mental slideshow aren’t so sharp anymore, and it scares her. It’s frightening to feel ourselves losing that tight grip on pictures and people who were once so clear in our minds. And it’s especially scary when these people are family members.

For so many years, my aunt was part of our family gatherings and holiday celebrations. She colored the events with all of her quirks. She stuck her finger right through the center of the creamed corn dish every Christmas to see if it was hot enough to put on the table. Her sighs of “Oh, Leslie…” to me or “Oh Natalie…” to my cousin or “Oh Barry…” to my dad were part of the soundtrack to every gathering. And she always showed up with a girdlebuster pie for dessert.

Since she’s passed away, we still all gather for holidays and celebrations, but it’s not quite the same. The scene is a little less colorful. There’s laughter, but it sounds different. There is still a girdlebuster pie on the table, but it looks different. I put my finger in the creamed corn to test its readiness, but it’s not as funny. Everything just feels different without her there.

When a family member leaves — whether it’s death or disappearance — there’s a void that can’t be filled. You can try to substitute, but it’s never the same. The dynamic is irrevocably changed, and you’re forced to forge a new path. But how do you move on in this new direction yet still try to keep the past alive in your mind? It’s tough, and I think it’s one of the most difficult things about losing someone, particularly a family member. It’s definitely what Ivy is struggling with.

Luckily for Ivy, she has music — a passion she gained from her mom. Music helps Ivy latch on to the best parts of her mom while giving her a positive outlet for the pain that could so easily overwhelm her. It’s a much needed life vest for her as she navigates the murky waters of loss.

So even though Ivy and I may forget what shirts our loved ones wore in our memory snapshots and we may never feel completely at ease in our new worlds absent of those we love, we know the sparkle that emanated from them can never be taken by Time. And it’s that remembrance that helps us find enjoyment in the new paths in front of us.

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About Author

Leslie Hauser

Leslie Hauser teaches middle school English and history. She is a Midwesterner at heart—born in Cincinnati, Ohio—but currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. She loves cupcakes, coffee, and most of all—music. Her debut YA novel CHASING EVELINE releases July 11, 2017. Visit Leslie at www.lesliehauser.com or on Twitter at @lhauser27.

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