Posted by: canthold | February 11, 2006

In Search of Lost Time

I was reading the Wall Street Journal today and on the back page of the “Pursuits” section was a sort of review of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” At first it struck me as odd since the seven volumes were written between 1913 and 1927. Then, as if on purpose, the meaning was unveiled.

I have a thing for reading classics. What started as a need to know what people were talking about when they make a literary reference ended up being a love for a certain genre of literature. That love compelled me to read even more. When I discovered Proust, only very recently I might add, I gathered that this was the mother-of-all-references that I needed to “get.”

I remember being excited when I bought it. I happened to be in another book at the time, “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis, and couldn’t wait to finish so that I could begin on my highly anticipated journey into Proust’s world.

In a single phone call, my life tumbled into chaos. My father had been in a motorcycle accident and was in the Intensive Care Unit. I immediately flew to Palm Springs to be with him. When I arrived, I discovered that I was the only person allowed to be with him because I was his only family there. The beginning of his three and a half weeks in that unit were the hardest because I was so alone as his sole support. Yet I would find that they were easier than the time that followed in retrospect.

I stayed with him for about four days on that first visit. I was hopeful and optimistic and full of spiritual energy. I read the last half of “Moneyball” to him. A baseball book for the man who introduced me to the sport seemed appropos. When I finished, I started to read him Proust.

The first few pages were about – as I remember – impressions of time and waking up from a sleep. My dad was drifting in and out of consciousness at the time and it was as if he were living from the written page. He knew I was there and acknowledged my words. Soon after, I flew home to be a mom again, with my return hinged on his speed of recovery.

The article, written by Mary Ann Caws, touches on what Proust said about memories. She says that he said that memories that come to us accidently are more vivid than the ones that we recall voluntarily. As I search for specific quotes to share and being tired, do not find them, I hope that my voluntary recall is as accurate as the gist I remember.

Funny then, that in my recall of Proust, I recall the vivid details under which I discovered the prose. The impressions that he left on me have seered into my mind and connected him forever with my memories of my father. I was drawn to the article because it connected me with my dad again. The article triggered my involuntary memories.

After about three weeks in the ICU, my father was heading towards discharge. He was off the ventilator and lucid most of the time. I was not able to see him then, but my travel plans were eminent. When I finally arrived, he was dying. I held his hand as his heart stopped beating. His time was lost.

I stopped reading Proust.

Ms. Caws states, “…’In Search of Lost Time’ affects each reader profoundly and personally.” I have to agree.

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