The house is quiet tonight. Ghostly quiet.
The Lovely Lady has left me on my own for a little space of time. I sit, because there is nothing else to do, and listen to melancholy music that, in its own way, only makes me more aware of the silence around me.
My mind wanders. You knew it would.
It was just yesterday–no really–just yesterday.
It’s a raucous, rowdy mess. The noise spreads to every corner of the old house and I realize that there is no place to go to escape the racket.
Not that I really want to.
As I listen, I realize that the past is colliding with the future right in front of us.
I see a four year old, and in a corner of the same room, an eighty-four year old. Generations mingle. They share information. Children, wide-eyed and agog with excitement, learn from (and teach) oldsters, some of whom are jaded and ofttimes disillusioned with reality.
We meet somewhere in the middle.
We are loath to douse the white-hot flame of new-found discovery; they instinctively recognize that we aren’t all that interested in learning the lyrics to “Let It Go”. It doesn’t stop them from jabbering loudly to each other about the things they learned in their schoolwork that day, or arguing about whether a light saber is better than a ray gun, nor does it stop us from talking about the latest medical procedure or our battles with the Social Security officials.
It is an occurrence which is repeated in nearly every multi-generational gathering you can attend.
This is somehow different.
I’m trying to put my finger on it, but it escapes me.
I hear the ghosts again. Only, they’re not dead. This time, I’m hearing the ghosts of the past, speaking in the same voices, only older sounding.
I heard one of those voices on the telephone yesterday–that of my former sister-in-law.
That’s right. Former.
I never asked to be a part of her family.
I got dragged into that when my brother and she married forty years ago. I was the little brother and she became my sister. That was all there was to it.
At some point, she and the brother decided their differences were past settling and they got a legal document saying so.
I didn’t get a document. Never wanted one.
She is my big sister. Still.
A voice from the past. Surrounded by voices from the past. It is difficult to visit with her and not hear the voices. Especially when the house is filled with people who were around then. My brothers and sister, along with the Lovely Lady, all are part of that history.
How does one simply toss away history, the past they’ve shared?
We jabber like children again, about school, and parents, and music. We laugh, until we remember the unhappy parts and then we cry a little, until we think about the funny parts again.
The past is so real, you could almost package it and keep it on a shelf.
The old voices from the past keep mingling with the rowdy ones from the future. The children don’t share our knowledge of the history, but their lives are shaped by it.
And suddenly, I have it in my grasp.
Whether we like it or not, whether we agree to it or not, our past shapes the future of generations to come.
What we do today changes the course of time for human beings not yet conceived, perhaps just as much as it does for those who are in the moment with us.
I look at the daily news from the Middle East and wonder what we would be talking about today if–four thousand years ago–Abraham had trusted his God to keep His word instead of taking events into his own hands.
Closer to home, and perhaps a little less earth-shattering, I wonder what I would be doing today if I hadn’t visited the little town in northwest Arkansas nearly forty years ago and fallen in love with the kudzu-covered hills and the rivers. I sit and chew on that awhile and the consequences of my choices begin to overwhelm me.
It’s almost a George Bailey moment. You’ll have to watch the old movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” if the reference doesn’t register immediately.
Choices and actions taken today will alter the course of history. One event leads to several, and to dozens, and to hundreds, all turning on a single decision.
It’s a little humbling, isn’t it?
Kind of terrifying, too.
The momentary actions of that one man, Abraham, echo down through eons of time and human history.
And I have to go out and deal with people tomorrow. Scary, huh?
I hear the key turning in the lock at the back door, and shake myself out of my reverie.
She’s home. All is still well in my world.
Choices will be made tomorrow. Choices that have consequences.
It would be easy to be paralyzed with fear, wouldn’t it? For a moment, panic hits. How will I…? Who do I…? When will I…?
Then I remember Whose I am. He said the words Himself.
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Don’t be afraid at all.”
The ghosts of the past are silent as I write now. The voices of the future aren’t quite ready to speak yet.
But, it is nearly time to take that next step.
The past meets the future at a place we call the present.
As always, I’d love to have some company on the road.
You coming with?
“‘How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’
‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear…'”
(From The Two Towers [Lord of the Rings] by J.R.R. Tolkien ~ English author ~ 1892-1973)
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”
(Ephesians 5:16 ~ NASB)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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