Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Preciousness of Memory

Dad remembers me now.

One scorching hot day in June, Mom needed to stop by my house to…well, never mind why. So she bundled Dad into her car and brought him with her. Ever the gentleman – even in his dementia – Dad held the front door for my mom. After she walked in, he stepped in after her, looked at me, furrowed his brow and said, “You look like a Krecker.”

“That’s because I am a Krecker, Dad. I’m your daughter. Beth.”

Could it be because I used my nickname as a child? The furrowed brow relaxed into a thoughtful squint, then a smile lit up his face like a thousand-watt light bulb.

“Oh…of course!” he said.

He reached out with both arms and hugged me hard – hard as if I were the prodigal daughter. And there it was. My Dad remembered me.

After nearly a year of being no more than the nice lady who takes him to church on Sundays, he remembered who I was. My name. My face. Me. Judging by the way he hugged me, it was apparent he also realized there had been a long hiatus since the last time he saw me – at least as his daughter.

That was in June. Now it’s January. He is in hospice care now. He doesn’t really walk anymore and doesn’t talk much, either. And when he does, sometimes he can only talk in grunts or, at best, whispers. Every so often, he’ll spill out a complete sentence in giant gulps like he’s trying to suck down the last drop of water on earth.

But whenever I visit, he sees me, instantly recognizes me and then whatever room he is in lights up with his thousand-watt smile, and he says, “Oh…you’re here! How wonderful!”

No matter how hard I try, I can’t remember why my mother needed to stop by that hot day in June. But, it doesn’t really matter. Because the day is nigh when my father will no longer be on this earth. And when I visit to comfort him in his last days, he’ll know who it is comforting him.

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