Sunday, December 25, 2016

Paper Memories

  Christmas Eve in Birmingham. The Van Man had been there for three weeks exactly and the walls were closing in around him. But he would stretch out his arms and keep that heaviness at bay.
  What was the saying, the world is a stage and we all play a part? Van Man was playing the part of the dutiful son, cleaning up his grandmother's house. Trashing years and years of garbage and junk. A life's worth of shit. But if there was a man to do it, Van Man was that man.
  His mother limped and swayed as she entered the room. Neuropothy was slowly taking away her mobilization. She had always seemed agile and quick in years past, but diabetes and over-medication had broken his mother down. Her brother was gone and now her mother. She was alone. Van Man watched her struggle to walk. He saw sixty years of heartbreak in every delicate step.
  Old magazines, broken models--symbols of his uncle's patience, bags of expired medicine, pictures--snippets of how good it used to be. Didn't it always used to be good?, thought Van Man. He perused over the photographs. Just paper memories. There was happiness in some, sadness in others. Van Man saw himself as a young boy, laughing and joyful at the wonder of the world. Then, there he was as an adolescent, melancholy and insecure.  A vicious stepfather in the background, hovering over the group like a vulture. Bad times, thought Van Man and he put those paper memories away.
  More boxes and more pictures. Most of the people in them were dead now. Dead or divorced. The family had been decimated by the Double D. And there was his Uncle. Divorce was not enough for him, so suicide became his only answer. The piles of images told his story simply enough. A laughing, blonde child in the sixties. An awkward, lovable lug in the seventies. He found his stride in the eighties and was at his happiest. Then, the nineties hit and he lost his footing...and his smile. As the Van Mother once said, "Some people get knocked down and get right on back up. Some people don't know how to get back up."
  Van Man looked around. Piles of junk and rooms of boxes left to be unearthed. A life's worth of paper memories ready to be viewed. Months of dirty work to be done. His mother limped by, smiling at him. And The Van Man knew he was the only man to do it.

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