Missing Memories

I was visiting with a friend the other day, sharing stories of long ago experiences and fun-filled adventures. I recalled one instance of us being younger and having travelled to a certain city. I described the trip, offering details and odd encounters, but yet, my friend could not recollect the trip!

” You must be confused about that trip; maybe you went with someone else, but I’m fairly sure I would remember if we went there….”, she stated rather matter of factly.

Well hmmm. Which of us is right and which of us wrong? In my mind, this friend was the friend  is the one that tried new and different foods at the Greek festival, spilled soda all over the car and hid spare french fries in the glove box of the car……..

Yet, she has not one smidge of a clue about the entire trip. I spent over 45 minutes trying to jog the memory, shuffle the brain and revive this missing memory for my friend. Nothing worked.

I found myself becoming frustrated and annoyed. How could she not remember this fun filled trip??? We laughed at silly things, counted cows as we passed by farm after farm on the way and ate some of the strangest foods we would ever try, just once. Who could forget such an experience? 

I found myself in the same place as so many of the families that I talk to on daily basis. I sit, nod along, and offer advice to them on how to “communicate” with their loved one who has dementia. I encourage memory scrapbooks, photos from the past and tell them they have to come to a realization that their loved one may or may not remember, ever.

It really is trivial as to whether or not my friend remembers the Greek Festival. The world will not stop, shake or shatter just because she can not recall it  . I think what frustrated me , was that my memory of the event was so clear, so detailed, and as clear as a crystal ball.   I felt  saddened, thinking maybe she did not t remember the event  because she didn’t have as good of a time as I did…..maybe she never wanted to go to the festival in the first place, or maybe she blocked out the whole event because it was that “bad”. My feelings were hurt.

For whatever reason, I felt insulted and even questioned the friendship I  have had with this person for over 25 years, all over a memory.    I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for the husbands, wives, sons and daughter’s  of those suffering from dementia. I am sure they must feel like I did, angered, frustrated, annoyed….all leading to the questioning of the entire friendship overall.    We see family members begin to distance themselves from their loved one as the resident begins repeating themselves, over and over again; unable to identify their loved ones standing directly in front of them.

“Mama, It’s me Carol, your daughter.”      

” Who, who are you again? Carol? Carol who? My name is Betsy. Betsy Graham. Who are you?”

This conversation goes in the same circle for thirty minutes.

Mama, It’s me Carol, your daughter.”      

” Who, who are you again? Carol? Carol who? My name is Betsy. Betsy Graham. Who are you?”    

Mama, It’s me Carol, your daughter.”      

” Who, who are you again? Carol? Carol who? My name is Betsy. Betsy Graham. Who are you?”

(Frustrating just to read isn’t it? Same thing over and over and over and over again………..)

 Moods are changed, tempers flare, words are exchanged and the absence is noted by the staff of how Mrs. Graham’s family “never visits any more”…… …Not only do we notice the lack of visitors, but we too become judgemental of the family. We never consider how Mrs. Graham’s daughter feels….how frustrated she must feel……how difficult it must be for her own mother to not recognize her only daughter…….        The pictures of Carol adorn the walls of her mother’s room. There she is, on Carol’s wedding day, standing in-between the bride and groom to be, smiling proudly….There she is, standing in the background, camera shutter flashing, as she photographs her daughter and son in- law, cutting the wedding cake……..There she is again, holding her first grandchild as Carol watches from the hospital bed………..yet, Mrs. Graham is missing all of those memories……    

Missing memories….similar to having lost  one piece of a 50,000 piece puzzle. We get so caught up with looking for the one lost piece that we forget to see the beauty of the 49,000 other pieces………

Yesterday, I had a phone call from a long-lost friend, Daphne. We chatted, laughed, and giggled at our past adventures……as we were about to hang up…she said…

“I have enjoyed catching up with you Jessi! We always had a ball when we would run the streets….do you remember the time you and I went to the Greek Festival? We counted cows along the way…..you hid french fries in the glove box of the car for later………….”





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