As I age I find that I fall asleep more easily than when I was young. It seems as though I can sleep more restfully sitting in a chair than in bed late at night. So was the case this afternoon while relaxing on the living room sofa.
I awoke with this story in my mind. It seemed so real I wasn’t, and still am not, certain it was a dream or a fabrication. It is one of those memories that may have been reality as much as a dream or fantasy created in my mind. This is how the story goes.
While visiting the small, isolated cemetery that embraces the granite marker of a loved one I met the self-described caretaker, Mr. Reficul. He was an older gentleman with ordinary features and graying hair. He walked slowly and seemed to gather debris from the cemetery at a steady but calm and casual pace.
As was my normal practice, I stood by the marker of the loved one and talked to her. I spoke in soft quiet tones as the conversation was personal and not for the ears of the caretaker. When there were no more words to be said I turned to leave and found the caretaker standing behind, and very near to me. He apologized for interrupting me and introduced himself as the caretaker, Mr. Reficul.
I commented to the old caretaker that his last name was very unusual. He told me he was a foreigner in this country. He said he came here long ago as the result of, what he called, forced exile. He told me he was compelled to leave the homeland he loved so much due to political turmoil. He said a day never passed without his thoughts going back to the joy filled days he spent there.
The old gentleman told me he enjoyed his position as caretaker. He said he welcomed the peaceful serenity the cemetery offered and he often spoke to the people left behind, like me. The old caretaker talked to me about the age of the cemetery and spoke with great knowledge about the history of some of its occupants, some of whom have rested there for over one hundred and fifty years.
The caretaker said he couldn’t help overhearing my words and asked how I was related to the departed. Without being specific I merely said we were very close, and had been close for most of our lives. I told him my friend had been gone for more than a year. The caretaker said it was apparent I had regrets and misgivings. I told him it seemed my whole life had been turned backwards. All my plans were destroyed and everything I thought I knew with unequivocal certainty was now ambiguous at best.
The caretaker said he believed I had lost sight of the obvious. I failed to recognize the important things in life. I did not have a strong appreciation for the ability to accept change and overcome adversity. I have expressed sorrow for the tragedies that have been part of my life, but I had not yet shown the courage to overcome the pain and continue on with the time I have remaining. He said I had not shown I possessed the strength of character required to start anew.
“I am the heartless beast with an insatiable appetite for human suffering and I have done everything possible to heave your life into utter chaos” he exclaimed. “I have turned your glorious expectations of happiness into despair and sadness. I have embedded within you the feeling that you are totally culpable for all the tragedies in the lives of the ones you knew and loved. And finally, I have willed it to be that everything in your life has become backwards, as is my name backwards as I have spoken it to you, Reficul.”