Today is the 25th anniversary of my father's death, and, of course, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy, a man so admired, so charismatic, of such promise, and whose senseless murder so many of us grieved. It was the time when black Americans were finally achieving their civil rights, and also when the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed about to bring the world to nuclear war. I was a student then, as it happened studying American history, and the course included the Civil War and the Post War Reconstruction, and the legal and social means devised to ensure that black Americans did not have full civil and political rights. Now there is a black President of the USA, so many things have come to pass which seemed impossible in my youth - or at least very difficult to achieve.
My father was a lawyer and he became a judge. He was a man of great ability, intellect, integrity and goodness, who made a very great contribution to society. He could be very stern and the domestic discipline was strict. I was the second child and there was a considerable domestic load on me, and when I tried for more independence, it was not easy to achieve. Still, this was so many years ago, and now, in my life alone, it seems important to review my life, my character, my achievements, my failures and my future. Such as it may be.
And what should I do with the rest of my life? Continue in this city, living alone, but with regular and enjoyable things to do, which do, however, contrast sharply with the solitary times and the loneliness of having no partner to love and no one to whom I am essential and special?
And ten days ago it was the 21st anniversary of my second marriage. All these anniversaries impelled m to look at the photograph albums. They sit up there in the cupboard, looked at seldom, because looking at them takes time. I wanted to write a piece for my Italian class on the changes in photography over the years, and got about half way through it, hit the space bar, and the whole text vanished and could not be retrieved. It felt a bit like the way life, as a whole, happens. Then it took me a while to find a particular album, which contains copies of the family - parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Most, of course, are dead now.
The album was compiled as a gift for my older daughter's 21st birthday. My father asked me what he should give her, and this album was my idea. I think my stepmother must have done the actual compilation. I asked to have a copy made for me. I am so glad I did. Photographs and negatives and their organisation is very time-consuming and thus, it tends to be a job imperfectly and incompletely done. This afternoon I have been perusing these albums. It gives great pleasure, many memories, some loss of memories - who is that, you ask sometimes, but also quite a lot of pain.
When my father was dying I took photographs of him and the family. I looked at them again this afternoon, remembering. Possibly, because I lived far away from my family, the sisters, brothers, and most of the progeny, and my opportunities for visiting were relatively infrequent and all too short, these photos matter to me. I spoke to one of my sisters this afternoon, and I referred to the photos. She said she did not like them, and I felt frissons of disapproval of me for having taken them. But I don't resile. They matter to me, and form a significant part of my memories - given that I lived, and continue to live, far away.
And then they ask, why not move back to the city of my youth? I don't know. It is daunting to be faced with the possibility or the necessity of yet another move, and reinventing my life yet again. Reinserting oneself into a social and familial life after so many years. The loneliness could be even greater. I don't want to wallow in such gloomy thoughts - that is neither positive nor enjoyable, but there are times when the nice, quick, sudden, hear attack, or whatever, has its appeal.
But not yet. No, no, not yet. There are still things to do, and people to see.