I wrote a column for The Sunday Sun about Jocelyn Saiki’s quest to find the man who saved her life in 1972, when she was just a toddler. A man she never knew. A man who would be 70 years old now, if still alive. Saiki wants to thank him for making her life possible.
Don’t we all reach back to settle issues and curiosity? Don’t we all have those yearnings?
One night, in a private moment in the half-light, some of the faces from your past appear — old friends, lovers, a passing fancy, a mentor, a teacher, a coach, the odd lady who walked past your house and never made eye contact, that young parish priest who left the priesthood. At some point, they all come rising from the river of memory. And you spend a moment in wonder: Whatever happened to that nice man who came through the neighborhood and sold watermelons out of an old school bus? Whatever happened to that guy you dated in college? Whatever happened to that waitress who reminded you of Julia Roberts? And why did you never ask her out?
I think of a brief but memorable scene in “Citizen Kane,” when Bernstein says this: “A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.”
I’ve read that the pandemic got a lot of us thinking about the people from our past — the ones we lost contact with or, regrettably, never made contact with, only knew from a distance. Or maybe, as time goes on and time moves fast, we just need to stop and look back at the long river behind us. There are people you can still see, but many out of sight, around a bend, beyond the trees. And you stretch as far as you can to remember some golden moment and feel again the spark that made it so.
I note these lyrics to the Dylan song, “Girl From The North Country,” the part that goes:
Please see for me if her hair hangs long/ If it rolls and flows all down her breast/ Please see for me if her hair hangs long/ That’s the way I remember her best/ I’m a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all/ Many times I’ve often prayed/ In the darkness of my night/ In the brightness of my day.
I don’t know if Jocelyn Saiki will ever get to meet the man who saved her life — that man she never knew — but I think the desire to know him serves as a tribute.
And, for the rest of us, wondering about old flames or absent friends or parents who helped us along the way — just thinking about them, in those private moments in the half-light, keeps them alive.
Before the climactic scene in “Saving Private Ryan,” the captain, played by Tom Hanks, is asked by Ryan, played by Matt Damon, to share a memory of his wife back home, pruning rose bushes. “No,” the captain says. “No, that one I save just for me.”