Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Remember

Memories are funny things. Sometimes they are long-lasting, at other times fleeting. Sometimes they are triggered by pictures, sometimes by nothing more than a familiar smell. They are fragile and delicate and ever-so-precious, and I didn’t really realize until recently, really within the last two years, quite how much I should treasure them.

One of my first memories happened when I was three-years old. It was dramatic enough to stick, I guess. Horse-lover that I was, and have always been, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to take my rocking horse and put it up on my bed, so that I would be up higher. For a few fleeting moments, I was a cowgirl, riding off into the sunset of my bedroom, but then I slipped, fell off the bed, and the rocking horse came tumbling after. Right onto my left arm…breaking it.

I don’t remember the pain. I don’t remember crying, like I’m sure I did. But I do remember the yellow plastic of that rocking horse. I remember its red yarn hair, and its blue nose. I remember the sound of the sand that weighted its bottom as it slipped from the bed and onto my bony arm.

It’s almost a miracle that I can remember those simple details, and of course, there are other miracle memories that are a lot more precious, like the twelve years of memories I have of my grandfathers.

I remember PawPaw telling stories of the Navy and his pet kangaroo in Australia, and I remember Dorsey singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and tickling me into a fit of giggles. I remember PawPaw rocking on the front porch with a gray and white cat in his lap, and Dorsey walking across the yard with an entourage of rescue dogs trailing behind him.

I didn’t know that I would only have twelve years with them. If I had, I think I would have written things down, things that have all but slipped away now. Things I can’t ever get back. Sometimes, our memories betray us that way.

My grandmother’s memories betrayed her in a bigger way. When her confusion first began, we worried. We took her to doctors and specialists, fearing the worst, hoping for only the best. Alzheimer’s is an awful disease…and that’s a gross understatement. It steals those things that are most precious to us, those memories we love and treasure, those pieces of loved ones gone by.

It can be fickle. Some days, it grants its victim clarity; they are back in the present, sharp and clever as ever. But most days, it thrusts them into the past, a past where worries from yesterday haunt their troubled eyes, where those long-dead trip in and out of their lives. It causes confusion and pain, for both the victim and their family.

For two long years, we watched my grandmother struggle with this disease. We held onto good days like gold and cried on the bad days. There’s a reason they call Alzheimer’s “The Long Goodbye.”

She passed away two weeks ago. Stubborn spit-fire that she was, she never stopped fighting in those two years, fighting for herself and for her family, and now her fighting has ended. Finally, that long, hard struggle to hold onto those priceless memories is done.

Her memories have been fully restored, and she’s with my grandfather and my Gram and Papa now. Our hearts ache, but we’re comforted by that, by the fact that she’s her old self again with all her memories…a gift for eternity.

“I remember.” Two simple words that now hold a world of meaning. Fleeting and delicate as can be. The good ones are a gift, write them down, and lock them away for yourself and for the future.

My Meme, 16 years old, Southeastern Fair

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