Memories worth more than materials


Griffin Traylor, Volunteer Writer

One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is mourn the loss of someone who is still alive.

As I listen to her voice, my heart feels with sorrow. Time is irreplaceable. It is unforgiving and without proper use of it, one can be left feeling as though they have had none at all.

Throughout our conversation she is calling me by my uncle’s name, quickly listing off my sister and then my mother’s name as she attempts to correct herself. Staring out the window, she sighs and says, “I’m losing my mind” a phrase that has grown increasingly popular in her vocabulary. I comfort her with phrases I too have grown accustomed to, ones that for her are being said for the first time each day.

The first time my grandmother called me by another name, I thought nothing of it. Throughout childhood, she was the life of every conversation. Her charisma was infectious, starting conversations that one hopes had no ending. As a lawyer, her linguistic skill was unmatched and unbound to any one topic. Phrases once unique to a brilliant mind that had the answer to every question or the solution to any problem are beginning to dwindle to nothing more than questions themselves about problems that have long been resolved.

These are the early stages of Alzheimer’s a disease that can obscure even the most ingenious minds.  

Daily life with my grandmother requires repetition and patience to help moderate her memory loss. Conversations must be short with basic subjects and no real depth. However, this is only true for recent events. One of our favorite topics to converse about now is her younger years. Although she may not be able to tell you what she had for breakfast this morning, she can still tell you what she ate as a 7-year-old on her family’s farm. As she describes the quaint farmhouse, I close my eyes and am teleported to 1948.

The breeze ruffles the frill on the curtains causing a rhythmic tap of loose wallpaper. The cast iron skillet sizzles with the fat of a pig that once grazed outside. A bell rings and in the distance crops begin to part as my grandmother and her siblings’ race to get the first plate. The redbone barks to the thuds of bare feet running across the rickety porch.

I have heard this story countless times and each one is more detailed than the last. Although her recent memories fade, her childhood is a place that she can nearly reach out and touch. In order to help her cope with linguistic infractions, I often ask to be told of her younger years. Her smile reclaims its rightful spot and story time begins.

There are no interruptions during story hour. When you watch someone for so long struggle to get their thoughts out, it becomes second nature to focus on their words. A skill is acquired in piecing together scrambled speech to form a cohesive sentence. I do not stay silent in sadness. I stay silent in respect for every word spoken with true passion true meaning and true remembrance.

The effects of Alzheimer’s reach more than just one single person. It has it’s hand in the pocket of every loved one associated. There are no off days and there are rarely easy ones. It is a progressive disease that eventually leads to permanent care for patients. I am lucky to have lived my life with my grandmother before this disease took hold of her. I am often left wondering however, of the time I wasted in ignorance that I could have spent talking to her.

What stories have I missed whilst doing useless tasks that were at a time considered more important? All too often concentration evades me as these thoughts take over. During the hours spent talking with my grandmother, I am reminded of a life lesson that was once nothing more than a saying. Waste your money and you are only out of money, but waste your time and you will lose a part of your life.

I have lost moments in life with my grandmother, and now I would give the world to get just a second of them back.

I do not believe enough value is put into a memory as it is in materialistic desires. However, when you are losing a person who is not yet physically gone, memories are worth more than any material possession. In a way, I feel blind in the sense that I can no longer see her perspective on topics we never discussed.

Now, my most valuable possessions are ones that cannot be sold they cannot be bought they cannot be recreated.

Value is fabricated only by the beholder and my values are placed in time and prayer alongside my grandmother. For her, and those like her, I pray daily that their families and mine may find peace in such unforgiving circumstances. I never fully lose hope for things to go back to the way they once were, yet I never fully accept that things are any different.

This terrible disease can take everything from a family without taking anyone at all.