Last night, I was cleaning out my refrigerator. The potato salad that I discovered hidden in the far back….well, let’s just say I could have sent it to a laboratory for further testing, and possibly have found the cure for an unknown disease! I was mortified to find the milk was date June 3……on and on I could go with the discoveries, but I think we both know cleaning it was long overdue.
As I closed the door, I noticed all the clutter on the outside. Old photos from days long ago, ( gosh I looked so young!) , magnets from different places of travel, reminder cards for hair appointments and doctors visits and expired pizza coupons, valid for take -out only.
I began removing some of the clutter, hoping to make it look a little cleaner on the outside. Standing there, I found myself traveling back to the places and times of each photo. I could almost hear the waterfall gushing down the mountain. I smiled to myself as I heard my friends and fellow hiker’s laughter echo through the valley.
Sadness filled my heart as my eyes locked onto the little heart photo magnet, containing the picture of my beloved Jack Russell, Annabelle. She passed away in 2012; having lived to age 16. She had always been “under foot”, tagging along everywhere I went. I was suddenly reminded of how much I missed her.
As I moved around the magnets, drawings, photos and stickers, each memory associated with the people and places came flooding back to me. People I have not seen in years, places I have not been to since the late 90’s and friends that I have lost contact with over the years, all hold a place on my fridge and in my heart. How many times in a day, do I open the door to the freezer and not notice them? They are always there, constant reminders, yet overlooked, until now.
I wonder if that is how it is for dementia patients? Those memories that are long forgotten are suddenly jogged into the present by something that reminded them that memories were still there?
The other day, one of the Therapy Dogs came to visit the facility. Several of the residents began sharing about their own beloved pets. One lady who rarely speaks, began pointing at the dog, smiling as she leaned down to pet him. She looked at his handler and said, ” I had a dog. His name was Joker.” Could it be that she too, has “refrigerated memories”? Just something that jogs the memory, enabling her to remember? Do we assume that all dementia patients have forgotten past events, places and people, when in fact all they need is reminder of them?
This morning as I opened the refrigerator door, the little light came on, enabling me to clearly spot my coffee creamer, hiding behind the big bottle of Coke. As I closed the door, there they were. The people, the places…..I noticed them. I smiled as I sipped on my coffee, feeling as though I had found a long-lost friend.
The next time you go to your refrigerator, look at what’s on yours. Travel back to the places you’ve been, smile at long lost friends and enjoy the journey