Thursday, May 5, 2016

Memories of You

I have to warn all who dare enter that this post is going to be emotionally charged.

I actually wrote it a year ago. My wife went to the hospital for pregnancy complications and was told she'd be leaving with a baby - a few weeks earlier than expected. I only had a few days to process this information, which for reasons that will be explained within was complicated. I couldn't sleep and I was up all night writing and sorting through my feelings. This blog post is one of the results. I didn't post it because it felt unfinished, unrefined. I didn't mind putting my emotions out there for all to consume, but I did want to edit the writing before posting. I just wasn't brave enough to re-read it after it had been written.

My new son turned one yesterday (May 4, 2016) and I felt it was time to revisit this and put it online.


"キミの記憶" or "Memories of You" is one of the most important songs in my life. My Japanese is pretty bad, because I let it fall far into disrepair over the years, but for some reason this song spoke to me even before I transcribed the significance of every word and stroke of every character into my mind. I was listening to the soundtrack of Persona 3 one night and this song came on. It's peppy and upbeat. It's pretty and I've always enjoyed it since playing Persona 3 long ago. This particular night it was the English words that caught my attention because they play off a few lines from the game said by one of the characters. In particular, "I will never leave you" stuck out as one of the most meaningful moments in the game. It was then that I realized what the song was actually about and from that moment I had to know every word. As I began to unravel the meaning of the song, listening, reading the lyrics and translating them, I unraveled emotionally as well.

Since that night, I always turn to this song when I need to actually, truly feel my feelings. Even on antidepressants, the song manages to burn through the haze of emotional indifference to rip the true feelings from my heart and slap me in the face with them. I even wrote a poem that night several years ago about teardrops filling up the concave inside of my glasses - it wasn't a great poem so I won't share it, but I really liked the imagery of my tears falling onto my lenses. It was the first big release of tears since my son died. Several months had gone by and I had done my very best to lock it all away and bury it with mood altering drugs. I put on my brave face to "get on with life" and left a huge emptiness lingering inside. But that random, fateful night, this song dove into my heart and dredged up all that pain.

The very strange thing about this song among countless songs of love and loss in any number of other languages is that it's about a female android mourning a human whom she had grown to love over the course of the game. The nature of her love is fairly ambiguous - whether platonic or romantic - but it really doesn't matter. It's strange that this song and that relationship is what the developers chose to focus on when there were many, many other relationships in the game that could have been emphasized. It is a game about relationships, in fact. The reason the android is so meaningful is because she begins her chapter of the story without even realizing she's capable of human feelings. Over the course of the game, she comes to understand friendship and develop true, meaningful relationships with the people whom she had been alienated from her entire existence. She expresses her new-found feelings and then suddenly and unexpectedly (SPOILER) the character to whom she is enamored dies. This song is very much about how she processes this grief - something I try really hard to avoid, I think.

I think about Aigis a lot. I relate to this fictional android in several ways which emphasize why this song is so powerful in unsealing what I have buried deep inside. It explains why I can put this song on whenever I need some relief from the emotional pressure building up. As a robot, Aigis's lifespan is fairly indefinite. For her, this encounter with the characters of the game is probably only going to be a mere instant of her existence, but definitely the most meaningful time of her life. She forges a friendship that would teach her what it meant to actually be alive, and to be human. Then, that friendship abruptly disappears in an instant and Aigis makes the choice to live on and carry those memories of him forever (hence the name "Memories of You"). She could shut off her emotions and go back to being just a robot, or shut down completely and withdraw from living in a technical sense, but she makes the choice to go forward because of what her friend taught her about being alive. This choice to carry the memories forward is pretty similar to how I feel about my son, Rhys, who only existed for 6 weeks but changed my life forever. It was like a drop of water in the ocean of life experiences - six weeks out of 35 years seems so inconsequential. He never said a single word. We only made eye contact a few times. This tiny thing that existed in the blink of an eye had the power to change things forever.

I used to think I was a lucky person. It's silly really. I was walking around this planet thinking that I was someone who never really had bad things happen to him. The older I got the more bad things actually started happening, but I just clung to this mentality that I wasn't the type of guy that had truly bad things happen. I had friends who would witness me go through some pretty awful situations and wonder how I held my resolve, how I remained so calm and cool and collected about everything. When Rhys died, that perception of myself as a lucky person completely shattered. It was a few years ago, now, and for the most part the pain is just a dull ache instead of crippling stabs into my chest cavity - but the pain still exists. It's still in there in full, terrible form. There is such a tremendous amount of pain waiting to be unleashed by something as simple as a song about a robot and her dying friend - and it can hurt like the day it happened if I let it grow. It feels like I am now marked by this pain, that my soul is torn so deep that it defines me. In one terrible night, I transformed from that casual, friendly person who could bounce back from anything in stride. I was dismantled and crushed and replaced by a person who now knows he isn't lucky. He knows terrible things have happened and can happen again at any moment.

This weekend a new baby is going to be born. I've spent nine months hiding from it, pretending it's not real, trying not to look at ultrasound pictures or feel the kicks. I needed to pretend it wasn't happening, because I can't handle it. I have to handle it and I will handle it, but my emotions, my anxieties, my endurance is not ready for this challenge. I'm terrified. If anything bad happens again, I don't know how I will survive. This is true of my other two surviving children, as well, but they're already here. The risk of losing them in some sudden accident is already real and prevalent. I've been coping with that for years. I won't even get started about what I go through when leaving them with other people, or sending them on field trips. But it's not nearly the same as having another newborn - another precious, fragile, tiny life living in my house. Another defenseless human being that my wife and I are charged with taking care of.

That's not all and this is why I need Aigis tonight. I'm not ready to let go of Rhys. My rational brain realizes that I don't have to "let him go" and that he'll "always be here." I know that I'll never forget him, but I'm so tremendously scared that I will. I think I always have been. We didn't have enough time together. I can't remember the way he sounded. I can't remember the way he smelled. I remember how he made me feel - I mean, how happy I was to be around him and how wonderful it felt to hold him close, but that's the best I can muster. I don't want him to disappear forever. I don't want him to be buried so deep in my heart that I never let him out. I don't want to replace him with a new baby. I know he won't be. I get it. I tell myself a million times in the last two years, but it doesn't matter what my brain says will be true compared to how I actually feel. I fear the evanescence of my son every passing day. Sometimes it's so real and brutal and painful that I feel like he just died yesterday, but most times I feel like he was just a pleasant dream I had once and the longer I'm awake the less I'll be able to recall it.

Aigis chooses to live. She could shut down. She could go to sleep or simply reboot. She could erase her memories and her feelings, but because of what she learned and how she developed she comes to understand the value of life and living. She chooses to keep going and hold on to the memory. I chose this as well, but my memories degrade faster than a computer. I carry his memory with me as one of the very, very few people who even knew him in his brief existence. That burden is oppressive sometimes and what if I fail? What if some day I can't find the way he made me feel? What if I can't remember how he looked or how soft his skin was? Who will remember him if I don't? What if my new son terrifies me? What if I'm too afraid he'll die so I don't allow myself to get too attached? I know all this is stupid, because I've always fallen deeply in love with my children the instant we met face-to-face, but that scares me almost as much. How defenseless will I be if something bad happens again?

I'm so scared.

(originally written May 2, 2015)

Rhys (Aug 17, 2012 - Sept 27, 2012) 

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