A Particular Rear-View Mirror

In the Rearview Mirror, used under Creative Commons

Music always takes me places.

Now that I’m…well…of an undisclosed age, I find myself nostalgically turning to songs that are older, songs from when I was…well, not of such an undisclosed age. Now, lest I make myself sound like I’m of an undisclosed age, I won’t talk about how that music had poetry and passion that “today’s music” just doesn’t have. I’ll just say that…man, that stuff really takes me back.

On the drive home one night this week, I was rocking out to Meatloaf. Fascinating music, his…I’d love to see academic papers on the theology of his music, because it’s dripping with metaphor and a general questioning of life. One of his songs, Objects In The Rear View Mirror, is a powerful retrospective on the emotional events of one’s life. I typically relate to the third verse, which talks about that first passionate romantic relationship that we all remember from some point in our past. The first verse, though, is about a childhood friend who died far too young, and the fact that the singer is still haunted by the memories of that missed friend.

And the song takes me back…

When I was in elementary school, somewhere around third grade if memory serves, I had a friend. Well, I had more than one friend, several of whom remained my group of friends all the way through until middle school, but this one I vaguely remember. I’m not even entirely certain about his name, but I’ll omit it here, in any case. I know that he hung out with us and that our play was very imaginative. I remember that he was new to the school that year, and that he had clicked with us early in the new semester.

I grew up in a rural area, where there were a lot of farms and other rural vocations. I came to school one day to hear in hushed tones that our friend had “passed away.” I don’t remember all the details of how we were told, but I remember finding out that a large farm tractor had rolled over, trapping our friend beneath it and killing him quickly.

I also remember having only a very brief conversation with my parents about it, and moving on. It had left my mind by the end of that year, by the end of that semester. I’m sure that there was some intentional effort to let it drift from memory on the part of the school administration in order to avoid re-traumatizing us, but, overall, after the initial surprise, I really didn’t think about it again. My friend had died, and I moved on.

My first career after college, and the career in which I remained for over a decade, was behavioral health. Part of that career was spent doing emergency services work, in which I did things such as hospital consultations and the like. I met people at their lowest points, and tried to help them resolve their situations. I worked out of a satellite office for our agency most of the time (it was literally a five-minute commute from my apartment…that would definitely beat my current commute). One of our administrative staff worked every Friday in that satellite office, helping our regular office administrator catch up on what was always a backlog of paperwork. One afternoon, the regular front office person ran back through hallway calling for help. One of my co-workers ran to the side of the here-every-Friday staff, who had collapsed in the front office. I grabbed a phone to call 9-1-1. They were there amazingly fast (I remember wondering how they had arrived so quickly), but my co-worker, whose pleasant demeanor had always cheered us, never awoke. I didn’t see her fall, but I witnessed the failed attempts to revive her, the rushing her out to the waiting ambulance. Then I worked the rest of the week as I always did. I moved on.

I trouble myself sometimes with the way in which I can distance myself from tragedy. It’s not as though I don’t feel the impact of loss, or mourn. Certainly I have and I do. I remember, though, when my grandmother passed, that it took weeks for the emotional response to finally catch up with me. When it did, it passed and I found myself moving on. I miss her, I do. I wish that she could have seen our daughter. But, I’ve moved on.

Ironically, I have issues moving on that easily in matters of life that are of arguably much less importance.

Back in those days, back when I did that work in that career that required me to be able to handle what shocked most others deeply, I considered it a positive attribute that I could handle those sorts of stressors easily. Now, I wonder if my handling them so easily is healthy at all. I move on quickly…I suppose that’s a good thing. I just wonder if I’ve truly dealt with what’s happened in the past. One of our family values when I grew up was to put conflict behind us quickly and move forward. I fear sometimes that I’ve generalized that too much, and that I move forward too quickly, before I’m ready to do so.

And I wonder, at times, how this bodes for my future. Or, if it really is a healthy thing that I move forward, and only have nostalgic recollections on occasion.

Objects in the rearview mirror may, after all, appear closer than they are.

Image attribution: A Gude under Creative Commons.

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