Life and its Many Memories

Consulting in a nursing home has taught me the importance of making and cherishing memories. It seems to me, we spend the first half of our lives accumulating things- possessions, friends, family, homes-And the second half, losing them.

We lose our parents. Our children go off and live their own lives. We retire and lose our work identities. Our friends and contemporaries die. We move from our big homes to retirement condos, then Assisted Living apartments and finally into tiny rooms in nursing homes. There isn't room for our "things" any longer, but there is always room for our memories.

Even my Alzheimer's patients hang on to their most precious memories. As everything else leaves them, my patients give up the memories of their children last. They may seem to have forgotten, they may call them by the wrong name or confuse them with their parents, but each one has in some way let me know how very much those babies matter. Language may fail them but love does not.

Tonight Mertis, Marti, her husband, Gary and I sat around making a new set of memories. They might not be the kind I'll hang on to forever. Hell, with menopause approaching, I may not hang onto them past next week, but tonight they mattered. Tonight we ate good food, learned a new (to me) card game, tried new recipes and in general, had a good time.

We tried to dance a bit of the clogging routine we began choreographing yesterday...but we'd forgotten it already and didn't have our notes. So we laughed and tripped over each other's feet.

Bailey the mo-ron dog, got his head stuck in a chair (and just stood there waiting patiently for us to notice and help him out.)

We talked about Santa Claus traditions and things we did when our kids were young to "help" Santa out.

We talked about how tall Marti's grandson is now and how tall the Youngest Unnamed One is just in the past month.

And we lived in the moment.

Earlier today, Mertis said, "I was thinking about Maggie (the dog) and how you could go months without taking her to New Bern to see your dad, but the minute she got out of the car she knew where she was and she'd run right up to his condo and in to see him as if she'd just been there the day before." Mertis laughed but stopped when she saw I was crying.

"Oh, I knew I shouldn't have said anything!" she cried. "I'm sorry!"

"Don't be," I told her. "I just miss him. It's nice to know you think about him too. Sometimes I think people are forgetting him when they don't talk about him, so it feels really good when you bring him up."

And then we remembered the Night of the Naked Guy and how funny Dad was with it all. We laughed and laughed.

As long as I have my memories of Dad, he lives on in my heart and is never truly gone.

That's the great thing about making memories- No matter how many you cram into your heart, there's always room for one more.

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