Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Memory Lost

Before we start Christmas dinner, each member of my family takes a turn at giving thanks for something in their life. There are a lot of us, generally between 15 and 20 at holiday dinners, so this process takes a while and the food gets cold, but it makes us happy.

When his turn came a year ago, my father said, “I’m thankful that each day I wake up and I remember my name.” We chuckled. Uncomfortably.

My dad is a charming man and a warm man, but he has never been demonstrative. Since that Christmas, however, whenever he gave me a goodbye hug, he hugged hard. Really hard. And held on as though he'd never let go.

I didn’t completely understand then. He was healthy; it’s not as though he was dying and had to worry about whether or not this was the last time he would see me. He didn’t have Alzheimer’s disease, just a brain injury that left him a little spacy. Well, he was always a little spacy, so what’s a little spacier?

I’m thankful that I never pulled away or was irritated by his sudden demonstrativeness. Because now I realize that he wasn’t holding on to me—he was holding on to his memory of me. Before any of the rest of us understood, he knew. He knew he was losing his memory.


Night Writer said...

Funny, I don't have an RSS feed on our site, but I always seem to check back here just after you've posted something again!

Anyway, I understand a little of what you're going through. I've seen a brilliant person close to complete a sentence due to a stroke. My last surviving grandparent skates around the edges of dementia. I happened to write about that this week ( and here's a poem from that post that may resonate with you:

by Anne Porter
Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of the old woman who
Was called Susanna
I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country
Trampled by armies
Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her
But she was always sleeping
All I could do
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles in her hair
One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness
She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes
She said it’s something that
My mother told me
There’s not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love
She then went back to sleep.

“Susanna” by Anne Porter, from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006

Btw, I've added another plein air artist to my blogroll, a long-time friend of my wife's: check out Zumbro Falls Impressionist at

Be blessed!

Elizabeth Krecker said...

It's interesting, I had a feeling you'd find this and am thankful you did because I knew you'd write a meaningful comment. God indeed works in mysterious ways. Thank you so much for this.