I lived in 18 different towns before I was 21 years old. You might say my folks had the wanderlust. You learn some lessons, some of them hard, when you grow up that way.

You learn intuition. Some call it “street smarts.” There isn’t time to do research projects on everyone and you learn to “scan” people instantly. You sense their vibes and your decision upon them is instantaneous. The worst mistakes you make are when you don’t listen to that voice.

You learn transience. Nothing lasts forever. Things change. You can’t really hold onto anything. Life is like sitting in a boat on a mighty river. Everything flows by. Nothing is still. Even you. You learn to let go without too much suffering.

Learning to let go is hard. At first, you try to maintain contacts, but then as they add up, you just lose them. You quit thinking about those people, almost as if you never knew them. There is a new world to deal with, one that is real and demanding, and those memories, those ghosts, fade away. The Now demands your attention, until one night when your mind wanders back and you see those faces and hear those voices again, and words said so long ago.

In time I suppose it gets easier. You get a little colder. You learn to not over-commit yourself to new people. You build a sort of protective cocoon around yourself because you just don’t want to feel any more pain. By the time I became a legal adult at 21, I had seen men die in front of my eyes. I was cold, impassive, and the lizard brain ruled.

I was an ace at letting go. I’m not bragging. It’s a lonely way to live.

There were times when I had two or three weeks’ notice that we were moving to a different town. I had a couple of weeks to wrap up all of my relationships and then be dropped like a paratrooper into an alien land. 18 times in 21 years. I was determined that my boys weren’t going to grow up like that. We, meaning Marian and I, built a home in Louisville, Kentucky. We gave our sons a stable life, that thing I never had.

I suppose that it made me something of a beast, someone who could turn off their emotions like a light switch. Speed is the essence. As long as you keep moving, you don’t have to deal with anything. We worshiped our cars, those powerful engines wrapped in beautiful paint, those tickets to anywhere sitting in the driveway.

The problem is that you spend a little piece of yourself everywhere you go. Every person you meet and every place you live carves off a little piece of your soul, and you leave it with them. The more you invest in people and places, the larger a chunk it takes from your spirit. In the quiet moments they return: the podunk towns, the lovers you wish you had and those you had, the graves that were left somewhere never to be revisited – the ruins of life.

Leaving, letting go, really means just that, releasing your grip, saying goodbye and allowing them to drift away in time. They will be consigned to the realm of memory which is unstable now, hardly trustworthy. And yet, there are memories as clear as yesterday, or maybe more so, of things years ago. They become the landscape of the psyche.

There are moments when the past reaches into you and suddenly yanks you back to a place in time that you thought you had safely packed away, and now it’s back. I remember so many times, people and places which simply no longer exist anywhere but in my mind. I suppose you could call it a haunting. I wouldn’t argue.

Sometimes there’s a call or an e-mail from one of them who is still around somewhere. Sometimes I struggle to remember names or the context where I knew this person. I always try to be polite.

Now, I feel myself, ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, leaving too. I’m smaller and weaker than I used to be. The old energy just isn’t there. It’s easy for the mind to slip into fantasies about times that are past. The autumn air brings the reminder of the animals and flowers going away, the birds, bees, butterflies and leaves, leaving for another winter. Someday I’ll go with them, but not today.

I feel like a ghost at the edge of the earth, looking back at worlds that don’t exist anymore. The living look right through me; the dead have nothing to say.

Syd Weedon

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