All You Want to Know and Then Some

My sister-in-law (my late wife’s sister) bought a new pair of “readers” the other day. When she dropped by for an early-morning visit yesterday, on a whim I decided to put them on. I was surprised when I looked at the selfie I took; I actually liked the look! I’ve never liked my appearance much; there’s something uninspired and drab about it. But these glasses changed everything. The only problem (and, of course, there is a problem) is that I must wear glasses with nose-pieces that keep the frames slightly away from my face. Otherwise, my long eyelashes brush the inside of the lenses, causing me to feel a modestly unpleasant sensation and, eventually, leaving tiny oily slashes on the lenses. I suppose that means my eyelashes are oily. I suppose I could cut the eyelashes (a risky proposition), but I’m not inclined to do that. Maybe I’ll just get a pair of glasses I can wear only occasionally, when I feel the need to boost my self-image for a moment or two. I like these glasses frames; they make me far less unappealing. Maybe it’s my scroungy beard that does more to hide the deeply unexceptional appearance behind it. Or maybe it’s both. Whatever.


Three recently-hatched Carolina wrens leapt from their nest, which is hidden in an awning under the eve of my house, yesterday. They fluttered their insufficient wings; maybe the fluttering was adequate to soften the landing. For the next several minutes, they rested, then fluttered around the deck, then rested. The birds looked like they had long but delicate little eyebrows as they rested, contemplating their next attempts at flight. Eventually, while my attention was diverted elsewhere, they managed to jump/fly up to the deck railing and, then, leap off. One, at least, was able to fly/glide to a nearby tree. I assume the others did the same. I do not know the habits of Caroline wren babies once they leave the nest…do they return? I am sure I could look it up online, but that would require a diversion of my attention and my fingers, which could delay this potential post for years. So, I’ll wait until later to find out.


Something—maybe a poet’s elegy for his father—prompted me a few days ago to think about my father. I tried to remember what he was like when I was a maturing young man and, later, a grown man in his late twenties and early thirties. My long-term memory has always been spotty, at best, so I do not have a particularly large assortment of memories from which to choose. I was about 32 when he died, so that would have been not quite 38 years ago. Memories from that era of my life are sparse, but I remember bits and pieces of life then. My father, long since retired, worked off and on as a security guard at night. I know he did it in part to supplement his tiny Social Security income, but I sensed that it was more a matter of having something to do with his time that caused him to do it.

I remember worrying that he would fall when he climbed up on the roof of a shed he was constructing, with the help of one of my brothers. And I remember that same worry when he and another brother took apart the remains of our house that Hurricane Celia  destroyed. That would have been at the beginning of my junior year in high school.

My mother and father moved to the Houston area from Corpus Christi in the late seventies or early eighties, I think. Their first house was in The Heights, a now-upscale area of renovated old homes. Even then, the gentrification of the neighborhood had already begun. Homes in that area were beyond the means of my wife and me, though both of us wanted to live in the area. We had to settle for suburban Katy, where homes in new developments were far more affordable, though far less appealing. I do not remember why my parents sold their Heights home; I just remember they did. And they moved west, to the fringes of Houston where I lived. Their house was only a couple of miles from ours.

All these thoughts about those “old days” came trickling out of me again this morning. There’s never a flood of memories. They leak out of my head, moment by moment, until I am able to cobble together a cohesive recollection. I realize my reconstructed experiences may be inaccurate. But, then, aren’t all memories biased by the experiences of the person having them? Each of us experiences the world from a perspective no one else on Earth shares. So, while our recollections may be correct for us, for others they may be warped or worse.

Memories are not like photographs. They are more like mixed-media paintings—oils and water colors and textured fabrics on a receptive background. The results may be clear and realistic, almost like a photo, but more often the image is semi-abstract. Either lighter or darker than the original from which the likeness was obtained. And colored by the mood and motives of the artist. There’s a photograph on the credenza above my desk. The image is of all six of my parents’ children on the occasion of a milestone birthday of my oldest brother. If, when I look up at the photo, I let my eyes lose focus, the image looks like a stylized, semi-abstract,  water color painting of my family. My memories of my earlier days are like that painting; soft and imprecise around the edges, colors flowing gently from one sister’s shirt to a brother’s vest to an almost colorless background wall. No matter how long I look at that photograph, a few minutes later I cannot recall all of—even most of—the details. That’s how memories work, I think. We recall only that a snapshot was taken, not what was in it.

Once again, I’ve wasted someone’s time by wandering aimlessly through my mind and documenting many of the steps taken on the journey. Watching paint dry can be more engaging than attempting to develop interest in someone else’s vague and pointless memories.


I got up earlier than usual, around 4. The clock turned to 6 just now. I may practice 5-minute meditation, using Alexa’s free service to guide me. I would love for the rest of this day to be based on a cool, calm, Zen-like start. We shall see.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to All You Want to Know and Then Some

  1. Rhonda, thanks for the very kind compliment! I feel considerably younger! 😉 As for the image behind me, it’s the “old” kitchen.

  2. Rhonda says:

    Is that your new kitchen behind you?

  3. Rhonda says:

    What sorcery is this, John; you actually look younger now than in your banner picture! The beard really sells it

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.