Instead of remembering him as I knew him, I too often think of him in terms of what he never had a chance to be. The things the rest of us know, he will not know. He will not know what it is to make a life with someone else. To have a child slip in beside him as he lies reading on a Sunday morning. To work at, and then look back on, a labor of years. Watch the decline of his parents, attend their dissolution. Lose faith. Pray anyway. Persist. We are made to persist, to complete the whole tour. That’s how we find out who we are.
I know it’s wrong to think of him as an absence, a thwarted shadow. It’s my awareness of his absence that I’m describing, and maybe something else, some embarrassment, kept hidden even from myself, that I went on without him. To think of him like this is to make selfish use of him. So, of course, is making him a character in a book. Let me at least remember him as he was.
~ Tobias Wolff, Last Shot