Remembrance of Things Recurring

Loss (Explored)

Yesterday I missed an anniversary.  No matter that it wasn’t mine, nor even the kind of anniversary that some folks would choose to commemorate.  Still, I wish I had—remembered it, that is.  Somebody besides my partner, RLB, and a handful of others should.  You see, seventeen years ago, on November 14, 1994, RLB’s former partner, Peter, a man I never met, expired in San Francisco.  The cause?  AIDS.  He was only thirty-five, a much-loved high school history teacher, I’m told, with friends scattered over two continents—apparently none of them, blood relations.  I add this last because his birth family did not even bother to inquire after his death until six years after the fact.

Okay, that is all very sad, you are perhaps thinking; but what does it have to do with you, Jack?  Why do you care?  I care because one should always care about senseless loss, and because Peter’s surviving friends, some of whom are also mine, still care.  But mostly I care because RLB does; and yesterday, all the signs of that caring were abundantly on display: the more than usual quietness all through lunch with a friend; the evident distraction, as if RLB were all alone with his thoughts—even in the midst of a noisy crowd; the hovering moodiness evident despite his best efforts at disguise (which weren’t very good).  If only I’d checked my calendar I would have understood that these weren’t just the symptoms of an ‘off day.’  Sadness, it was.  Grief.  Right there for anyone with eyes to see.  And why not?  Why wouldn’t anyone who has ever loved continue to care, continue to grieve over a loss so heartbreaking—a man so young, so gifted, so beautiful?

I know all this to be true because I’ve read some of Peter’s poems; I’ve heard the stories his friends still love to tell.  And I’ve seen the photographs, some of them every day—like the one prominently displayed on RLB’s desk.  Silly I know, but sometimes we chat, Peter and I—usually when I’m dusting the furniture, all RLB’s tchotchkes, the family photos on his desk.  Okay, so it’s more of a monologue—a little report from me to Peter on how things are: what we’re doing, RLB and I; where we live; the latest on friends and family–on RLB’s health.  Your basic update, I suppose—just in case that kind of information isn’t readily available wherever it is that Peter has gone.  That is what one does with family, is my thinking.  And Peter is family—which is why an important date, like November 14, deserves remembrance.  I’m sorry I forgot, hopeful that others—in the hundreds of thousands—who have experienced a loss like RLB’s have a memory as good as his.  For remembrance, it seems to me, is one of the ways we can honor those whose presence once was and still is—if only in recollection—so very enriching.  Which is, I suppose, the point of this little piece.

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About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in southern California.
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7 Responses to Remembrance of Things Recurring

  1. peterhobbs1 says:

    A very touching piece Jack, it is interesting how all of us seem to slow down and remember on the dates we have lost a loved one, a parent, a partner or heaven forbid a child. I read with a smile how you talk to Peter, giving him an update on things recent, it is a tribute to your love for RLB that you do that.

    Thanks again for the article.

  2. jessiebincr says:

    Very beautiful, Jack. Sorry I didn’t make it here before…why don’t I get updates for your new posts? Anyway…I can completely understand you, and think it’s very sweet, your relationship with Peter. I can envision you, flitting among the tchotchkes, dusting, murmuring to yourself, to someone long dead but not forgotten and definitely not gone. I think it’s lovely that you allow RLB his remembrances and his quiet grief without jealousy, and that you feel guilt at not remembering the anniversary of Peter’s death–indications of a soul that is both mature and sensitive.
    Thanks for sharing this, Jack. And my regards to RLB…and Peter.

  3. jaurquhart says:

    Hi Jessie. So glad you stopped by to comment. Thanks for your kind words–kinder than I deserve, I expect. LOL. I’ll pass your greetings on to RLB and Peter.
    PS: I’m profiting from your recent blog series of messages to authors. Thanks for exhorting us to our best. Difficult work but somebody has to do it!

  4. This is something I think a lot about. Death and memory. Anniversaries aren’t important to me (it’s a personal failing) but I think the remembering is so, so essential. I love that you talk to Peter’s photo. I have a picture of my dad hanging over my desk; I talk to him.

    • jaurquhart says:

      I find that I think more along these lines, too, Frankie. For a while, I attributed the trend to advancing age, i.e., kids are (suddenly!) grown, parents gone or in failing health, knees and joints talking back with increasing impudence. A host of negatives. Now I’m thinking it’s not so bad, this move toward reflection. Thinking maybe I’ll frame a photo of my Dad and Grandmother; roust up my own little chatter-box salon?

  5. Jane Isaac says:

    A very touching piece Jack. Beautifully put – brought tears to my eyes. I think it takes a very special person to be so thoughtful and I admire you for this.

  6. jaurquhart says:

    Hello, Jane. I was worried the piece might ring a bit self-indulgent–always a risk (as a friend recently reminded me) when one writes of personal experience. I’m glad you liked the post, and grateful for your very kind comment. Please know that I’ve been enjoying your blog today; such good news about your book contract. Congratulations! I’m looking forward to the release of your novel, “An UnFamiliar Murder.”

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