ONE LAST THING
Leaving things behind, lost or not, is part of life’s cycle
Nicky Smith column
The period of decay which precedes death, which impish, glass-three-quartersfull types like to call life, is a serious business. But after years of thinking about it I have come to the conclusion that it seems that is also a business about nothing, really at all.
These musings have plagued me since before I can remember, which could be a longer time than even I suspect, since I hardly remember things.
Having a porous memory means that I lose things and forget things all the time. Strategies to deal with my poor grasp on specifics of the events taking place around me have been developed over the years.
I lose stuff all day; sometimes permanently. This means I have duplicate ID documents, three access cards for the building I work in, two or three random codegenerating devices I had to use when I worked for an American news agency, two or three magnetic tape measures and maybe three hammers.
It has always been this way. Once, when I was about 10, I came home from school without my school shirt on. I had to wear my blazer on the bus home and it was very, very hot. Honestly, I have no idea what happened to it, maybe someone nicked it after PT? I dunno.
But perhaps the biggest mystery of things I have lost happened when I was 12.
My dad was fixing up a bike for me. It was terribly exciting. It was a “big” bike, a graduation from my little beast of a BMX.
The fixing-up of the bike seemed to take forever. I longed for it. It was an old-style Raleigh bike with a very uncool triangle seat with springs, and a middle bar that was angled at about 30 degrees. Which definitely meant it was a “Ladies” bike. This was a great disappointment.
One I kept to myself, of course, since the idea of being on a big person’s bike was intoxicating. I was getting bigger! And older. The bike was proof I was shuffling off childhood at last.
My other great, private reservation over this bike project was the weird turquoise colour it had been sprayed. It was definitely, maybe, a girl colour. But what was it? Pastel green? Powder blue?
Adding to the interminable tension over when this symbol of grown-upness and wonder (if not beauty) would be underneath me to display to my neighbourhood was the fact that my father has never been known to finish a project quickly. A gift he has given me. Thanks, Ken.
So for ages the disassembled bits of the bike were stacked against each other in the garage. The mute collection of parts had an irresistible pull on me. I could definitely start using it. Secretly.
I ran around the garden with the ungainly fork and handle bars, imagining a wheel spinning in front of me. I was riding my bike!
The last I remember was placing it on the top of the compost
Having a porous memory means that I lose things all the time
heap in response to an urgent call to my fort. The heap, at the back of the garden, served as a very handy help-me-up to get across the back wall and straight into my fort — a neglected bed of overgrown geraniums I had burrowed out into a series of interconnected pits.
Months later, or weeks, or days or years (really, I don’t know) my father’s interest in the bike project stirred. But there was a problem. The fork of the bike was missing.
Where was it? I knew I didn’t know, ’cos seriously, I didn’t. I knew nothing and said so.
There was much Jesus Christing How On Earth Could You Lose Something Like a Bicycle Fork, which was bewildering and heartbreaking.
Because now the bike would never be mine, and I was the reason. For many years I believed that the fork lay in the warm depths of the heap’s grass cuttings.
A thousand lifetimes later my mother told me they had moved the compost heap. And guess what? No bicycle fork. Did you look properly? I asked. Yes, she said, nothing. I am still not sure I believe her. And the mystery lingers.
Learning to let go of things is one of the hard-wired truths of this serious business of life.
Having spent most of my life losing stuff I now like to think that it may well be a gift. I have learned that there is nothing to be done about it, you have to move on and understand you have not lost anything, really.
Ultimately we are all forced to let go of everything, that is the nature of this serious business.
But it won’t matter, because it changes nothing and you still have the pleasure of drifting in the memories and mysteries of things lost.