Saturday, August 20, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Today's post was written by guest writer David Hallman...thanks for sharing your journey with us David!

I walked by the building, intentionally, on the way home from seeing Woody Allen’s new film “Midnight in Paris”, a poetic reflection on the seeming attraction of former eras.

The access to the building is now sealed. Not just boarded over with plywood that I could pry loose. Not even with brick that I might be able to chip away with the right tools and enough sweat. No, the former door is now a solid wall of impenetrable concrete cinder block.

Thirty-five years ago, I walked through that door and met Bill. We created a new life together that evening, one that continued for over three decades during which we lived large in laughter and music, in art and politics, in travel and work, in pain and suffering, in love and loss.

That life is over and it feels like memory is all I’ve got left.

Without giving away anything too crucial about the plot of “Midnight in Paris”, let me just say that Woody seems to conclude that the past is not quite as romantic as we might imagine nor the present as pedestrian as we might fear.

The movie prompts reflection on memory and verges, I think, on deprecating memory as ultimately shallow—quaint and curious nostalgia that is unreliable as a guide to life in the present. That’s my take on it anyway. Many may disagree with my interpretation and I’m prepared to admit that my reaction may be coloured by more than a little defensiveness about the place of memory.

Paris was a special place for Bill and me. We had both studied at the Sorbonne before we met and we returned to the city of lights many times during our years together. Those are some of the memories that I cherish, that I hoard, that I guard with an army of emotional weaponry. Yeah, I’m a bit defensive.

But just so you don’t send the straight-jackets to take me away quite yet, let me reassure you that there is, I think, some good news.

I’m not only wallowing in the memory, though I do do that. I’m not dysfunctional and incapable of getting up and making breakfast each morning though that is difficult on many days. No, the good news is that I’m working with those memories, mauling and molding them, creating meaning out of them to help me understand where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I may be headed.

This memory work for me is through writing. This memory work is not easy. It does suggest though, that if memory is all I’ve got today, it is not all I will have tomorrow. I’m not prepared to just stare at that sealed-up door and walk away in despair.


  1. This is beautiful, David. Thank you for sharing your memories ... and your
    pain ... and your love.
    I agree ... the memories can give us the strength to move forward, once we're able to see them through the darkness of our grief.

  2. I agree this is beautifully written. I feel this way on most days not all...

  3. Sometimes I live there - in the memory . . . close my eyes and bring back the sounds, the scent of his neck, the warmth of his hands.
    I know i can't stay but for a little while I live there and think - he lived.

    Thank you David.

  4. My first thoughts were also "so beautifully written. Thanks so much for sharing this David.

    Memories are powerful.
    Ironically it's my ongoing lack of short-term memory (I blame it on the shock) that compels me to blog so much, lest my long-term memory also take a slide.

  5. I miss my husband so much! He died almost 3 years ago, and I'm just so aware lately of how much I miss him and always will, no matter how much I try to heal. I lived with him for 40 years, and now I live alone. He is irreplaceable, no matter what else I decide to do with my life. He is gone, I live alone, do all household tasks alone, make every decision alone, and have no social life because I am alone. No matter what I do during the day, I come home and I'm alone. I sleep alone, get up alone in the morning. I have sex alone! My life is forever significantly changed, and unless I meet someone and fall in love, I will be alone the rest of my life. I tried to put a positive spin on this and thought about how lucky I was not to be alone for the 40 years we were married and to have found this great love. That leaves me only approximately 20 years of my life to be alone. I never anticipated that I would become so intimate with loneliness. It's such a sad and painful way to live. Maybe I'll get used to it. My life is so much better than so many other people who really suffer, but my life sucks. Is's just a reality of life that most of us don't concern ourselves with or understand until it happens to us.

  6. To Anonymous above.
    My heart goes out to you. My husband has only been gone nine months and there were moments I was certain the grief and loneliness would kill me. It was that bad. I am finding as time goes on -the relief I sought - that time would pass and I would feel "better" didn't happen. I know now it won't, the expression of the grief will move and change but I will never stop missing him. I was married 36 years. People have said the same thing to me "at least you had a happy and great love for all those years". And I am so very grateful for that. But, I wasn't ready for him to go, I realize I never would have been ready - even if he would have been 90.

    I can't offer advice but all i can say is how I get through. I immerse myself in life. I call my friends and family. I say "yes!" to invitations though my heart often says no. I invite people home. I sometimes email and say "I am so lonely" and I find when people know they will respond even if it is just a message back "we love you" or "I am always here for you" or "I am painting the kitchen want to come over for a glass of wine and chat".

    The only way I survived the winter after my husbands death was to commit myself to love. That I would love everyone around me and tell them and be affectionate and say all of the things I would want them to know if I suddenly died. I buy loads of cards and spend one afternoon a week writing to friends and family. Even when they are in town! And I mail them because no one gets "snail mail" anymore. I have been told my notes are loved and wanted.

    I still sob at night. I cry when I come in the house and find him gone - again, and again, and again. I still stare at his pictures and long for him in such desperation my whole body feels like it will be crushed by the weight of missing him so much.

    When i think I would rather be dead then live without him, I remember his face, I remember how badly he wanted to live, I remember him saying "I will wait for you but please keep living, do the things we wanted to do, travel, surround yourself with interesting people, fall in love with someone kind".

    I remember his last words - always love.

    This is how we will survive. With community and with love.
    Peace to you.

  7. David, and my fellow widowers there is a great song by Leona Lewis called Yesterday, that somes up how we feel and shows us the importance of memories. Check it out!