Depending on what part of the country you live, the front porch takes on many different characteristics. It can be enclosed to keep in the heat or repel against pesky creatures like mosquitoes. The front porch can be open and spacious where families and friends gather for evening conversation. A front porch can be used for storage or firewood. It could have patio chairs, a table and even a swing. It is a place to welcome guests to your home or hang out for a morning cup of coffee with a loved one. The front porch that my love and I shared was large enough to store firewood at one end and a seating area at the other end. No matter what characteristics a front porch has, for me it is a place of powerful memories that preoccupy my mind.
Have you ever thought there was something out there but then it was gone? Wait, what was that? Did you hear that? Then you look over and there is nothing there. “Our brain decides how we perceive everything around us. It informs our decisions, guiding us carefully through the fog that is the world around us . . . except for when it lies to us. Often, what we think is true is actually just our brains messing with us.” (Gregory Meyers, 10 Weird Ways Your Brain Is Tricking You ) The brain is a wondrous thing, but it isn’t perfect
While I strive for perfection, I now know that the memories that preoccupy me will not allow me to move on. Over the last two weeks I have had this overwhelming sense that my love is sitting on the front porch next to me; sitting in the chair next to the fire; laying on the couch; sitting in the passenger seat of my car; standing by the kitchen stove; or even talking to me. These moments in time are so powerful. The problem is, when I look over no one is there.
It is the front porch that I am having the most trouble with. My love and I would sit on the front porch talking about everything. In the last few months, though, the conversation was primarily about cancer and the impact on our family, financial issues, emotional challenges, the holidays, what we should get our son for Christmas, eventual death and our beloved son. The last conversation I remember having with my love was about whether or not we should travel back to Seattle for the trial he was doing at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I truly wish the conversation was about something other than cancer.
Now, I sit on the front porch by myself. I have a sensation that makes me believe that my love is there. I am afraid to look over because I know he is not. I sit there waiting, thinking that he will be out soon. As time goes on, I realize that he is not coming. This really is not the time of year in Alaska to sit on an open porch waiting, unless you are really bundled up. I still sit on the front porch waiting but have learned to wear a heavier coat. It takes me a while to go back in the house. I feel a strong connection and believe that on some level my love and I are communicating. My love did not ascribe to the belief that he was floating on a cloud looking out over us. He believed that it is the power of memories that live on.
Why does this happen? I have spent some time researching psychology websites and have ascertained that the mind plays tricks on low vision people. According to Deborah Bier, PHD, “…the brain is filling in information where there is none due to diminished vision. A parallel can be drawn to the neurological mixup that occurs with phantom limb.” (Deborah Bier, Charles Bonnet Syndrome: The Mind Plays Tricks with Low Vision Patients) Research suggests that there is clear awareness by the viewer that the visions are not real, though initially he or she may second-guess that conclusion. The combination of memories and my diminished vision in my right eye brings to bear the phenomenon of the “phantom eye” that reaches out to see something that is not there.
How often have you pressured yourself to think positive after an unhappy incident? Over the last two weeks I constantly examine my thoughts to figure out how I am supposed to act. The memories occupy my life as I try to figure out what we could have done differently. While I realize that my love is no longer in the living world, it is the memories of those cherished front porch chats that hold me back. Is it denial? Is it a defense mechanism that buffers me from the shock? Is it a way to block out the words and hide from the facts?
I like to think that my love is living on in my memories, as he would have wanted. The front porch is now a place to communicate on a higher plane. It is not denial or isolation. I am a conduit that allows my love to live on.