Counting the months on my fingers – November, December, January – I realize that it’s been more than a year and a half since the twins died. That's a long time, but, apparently, not quite long enough. When I sum up what I've been doing since it happened, I decide that, mostly, I've been trying to teach myself to forget.
Back when I started my blog, a commenter named Julie suggested that I take a look at the end of Deuteronomy 25, pointing to the verses about the Amalekites, a tribe who attacked the Jews following the exodus from Egypt: Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt . . . you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.
Though Julie had no way of knowing, this was one of the biblical passages that, as children, my brother and I found particularly hilarious. We even developed a whole who's-on-first routine about it.
--Remember, one of us would say, you need to blot out their memory.
--Blot out whose memory? the other would ask, eyebrows scrunched in mock confusion.
--You know who.
--Just remind me.
--You need to forget the Amalekites. The Amalekites. The A-mal-e-kites, Forget the Amalekites. Remember to forget the Amalekites.
--Okay. I've got it. I'm forgetting the Amalekites.
--Wait. I can't remember. Remind me again. Who was I supposed to forget?
But remembering to forget turns out not to be a contradiction in terms. If you can't erase the past through an act of will, you can obscure it, soften its sharp edges, dim the spotlights, mute the voices. Back at the beginning, when I was terrified that that I'd never be able to escape the words and pictures in my head, I deliberately questioned each of my recollections, cast doubt on every memory as it surfaced. Was I in the hospital for two weeks or three? What did the social worker suggest that I do? After a while, I couldn't be sure. And I feel fortunate that there's no anniversary date for me to dread, because I can no longer remember exactly when they were born.
I realize that many people, most people, perhaps, want something different, want, in fact, the exact opposite. But I sometimes wonder if remembrance causes more pain than it eases. And despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, I tell myself that if I had a way of blotting out all memory of the twins from under heaven, I would do without a second thought.
Here's the thing. Imagine you're on a ship setting sail. For a while you can still decipher the expressions on the faces of the people standing behind you, crowded together on the dock. Eventually, though, the expressions, the faces, the people, and the dock itself shrink, blur, run together. More and more, your attention turns to the grey sky and the greyer water in front of you. The waves curl white and you take out a chart and run your finger across it. On shore, everyone is eating dinner at their own tables in their own houses. The dock is empty and no-one is watching, wondering if it's really true that the tips of the sails are the last part of the ship to vanish beneath the horizon. Even if you looked back, there would be nothing to see.