Trying to Relight My Life

When I was in high school, I participated in a thesis project for a doctoral candidate. He was trying to prove (I think) that given the right tools, anyone could teach and anyone could learn. The high school students were to teach kids from the lower grades about various aspects of science. During the first class, I handed each of my students a battery and a light bulb and asked them to turn on the light. They couldn’t of course. I asked what they needed, and one kid said they needed a wire. I handed everyone a wire. A bit of experimentation later, they realized they needed a second wire. So, I handed out another wire, and in a very short time all those light bulbs were lit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently — not the program so much as those wires linking the battery terminals to the light bulb. It seems to me that ever since the death of my life mate, one of the wires is missing from my electrical system, and nothing lights me.

Take movies, for example.

My family didn’t have a television when I was growing up, and we seldom went to the movies, so I read to get my daily dose of stories. I wasn’t a speed reader, but was a skimmer — if there was a boring part, such as long descriptions, inane dialogue, and action scenes that went nowhere, I fast forwarded. Skimmed in other words. As a young adult, I went to the movies occasionally, but found most of them dull since I couldn’t skip over the boring parts.

After we’d been together for a few years, my life mate and I signed up for an assortment of movie channels. Back then there were only four premium channels, and those channels offered dozens and dozens of new choices every month. The two of us became entranced with movies. It was something we could share, and the enjoyment we each felt enhanced the enjoyment the other felt. The humor was funnier when shared. The tender scenes more touching. The scary scenes more horrifying. And I wasn’t bored. Didn’t need to skim.

He started taping the movies we liked, then he taped those he liked that I didn’t (such as genre westerns and war movies) then he went on to tape good parts of bad movies and finally he taped the best of the rest.

He’s gone now, but his movie collection remains. I have over 1000 movies to sort through (since I won’t be able to keep them all), so I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and I discovered something interesting. The movies that thrilled us, made us laugh, electrified us, the movies that radiated life — the movies that once seemed life personified — are now simply . . . movies. Films. Faded stories on a flat screen. As with the films I saw as a young adult (before I met him), these movies now seem to have nothing to do with me. I watch them. Can even enjoy them, but that’s all. Turns out, I needed two “wires” to make the stories live in me, and one of the wires is permanently defunct.

I’m not even attempting to watch the movies we especially loved, the ones that seemed to be made just for us. Without the other electrical “wire” these movies might also prove to be lifeless streams of motion, which would be unbearably sad. And if the movies still hold up, I couldn’t bear the sadness of watching them alone, without him. I’m sure eventually I’ll find the courage to view them again, but not today.

If the missing wire only affected movie watching, I’d chalk it up to one more loss among so many, but the truth is, with his being gone, nothing seems real. It was as if his smile when I told him good news or his commiseration at bad news or his laugh at silly news grounded me, and made everything more vibrant.

I am getting back into the swing of my life, and I’m starting to feel “normal.” Perhaps someday I might even find a way to relight my life despite that missing wire.