Thursday, May 13, 2010

Life is About Living Now!

Hardest topic for me.

This post. Memory.

One. I feel envy for all you mommy’s blogging about your life with your little children. A living, breathing, written memory for you to cherish. I can’t seem to remember much when my children were little. Little things filter through my mind. Their crooked smiles, the way they tucked their little hand in the back of my neck when I was holding them, my husband carrying them to bed when they fell fast asleep in ours. Now they have grown and I have forgotten so much.

But I will never forget how much I love them. But the look on their face when they ate their first piece of chocolate—I can’t remember. The first time they found money under their pillow from the tooth fairy—can’t remember. The first time they caught a baseball in the outfield—can’t remember.

I wish I could. I wish I had written about it.

I do remember my 17-year-old giving his 8th grade graduation speech, his sweet hug and kiss every single night, his screams of excitement when the Yankees won the pennant. I remember him climbing into his tuxedo for prom.

I remember my almost 14-year-old waving at me from a wakeboard behind a ski boat with a smile the size of Lake Tahoe, his patience and dedication as he reads my novel over and over again with so many helpful points, his smile every day as he approaches my car on his segway. I will never forget my son sailing me around the lagoon on his sunfish with the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs.

Or will I?

Two. My Mom lost her memory many years ago. MANY. And she sits in her chair without a memory or a voice suffering with Alzheimer’s.

“Does she know you?” everyone asks.

I have no idea. She senses me. Does that count?

A whole life of memories she doesn’t remember or does she?

She lost her husband and a daughter I hope she can’t remember that.

But all the other stuff. Where does it go? A whole life, filled with sweetness and light, with horror and grief. Where does it go?

I have become the memory for too many people. My mother, my father, my sister. I am a vessel filled with important memories that I can’t let die. Yet I can’t remember what my little boy said to me on his first day of school. I can’t remember the look on my little boy’s face when he took his first step. I can’t remember how they smelled after their bath.

But I remember my father dying. Clearly. And my sister sticking her tongue out at me in the hospital, angry that I was letting the doctors do awful things trying to keep her alive.

On those sleepless nights, and there are many, I want to remember the good things and not the bad. Turn off the switch of too many bad memories and let only the good ones filter through.

Why are the painful ones so vivid? It doesn’t seem fair. I can remember them in detail. Paint pictures, summon up feelings, re-create scenes.

The good memories are fading. I don’t want them to, because I need them desperately.

But life is not about memories. No. It’s about living and creating more memories.

Life is about living. Memories pull us backward, through time and space, sometimes unkindly, sometimes to help us remember and go forward freely. But life is about living. NOW.


  1. Terry, I'm so sorry for the pain, and the fact that your memory tends to cling to the hard moments, not the sweet.

    I was going through my first-born's baby book the other day, and I'd taken the time to write little anecdotes, things she did or said, and I'd totally forgotten about them. Of course, second-born's book has no such items, and I felt like a horrible mother.

    I think if your mother senses you, she must know that you are there. I'm sure she can smell you, feel your touch. ((hugs))

  2. Ugh, this is gut wrenching. Sometimes when I look back to when the kids were little, all I remember is being overwrought, overwhelmed, so sad and angry in an awful marriage. Thank goodness for pictures and video. These photos you've posted are beautiful. Alzheimer's is so cruel, to steal memories when it's time to enjoy them. but you're right; life isn't about memories. It's about living. And you're doing that every day, despite the very sad memories you hold. I really admire your strength Terry!

  3. I too struggled with this topic, Memory. I thought, hey I have so many - how hard could it be to just write about one. But every one of them that I could recount and put into words were painful - ones I want to keep hidden. At least for now.

    You're right in wondering, "Why are the painful ones so vivid? It doesn’t seem fair. I can remember them in detail. Paint pictures, summon up feelings, re-create scenes."

    I wonder why myself. Is it because we have not come to terms with them?

  4. Oh, I love this post too. You said it all so perfectly (and poignantly). I was thinking the same thing just this morning. Although my son is still little, I am startled at how little I really do more vivid those memories of my teen years were, say, or my life in my 20s. The memories I really want to remember in technicolor are those from motherhood and already they're sketchy or just downright gone, if I didn't write them down. Of course, it is age, isn't it? Physically speaking, we're just not retaining the memories in the same way our young brains did. And yes, it's ironic that we can remember the bad so easily. But maybe those memories serve a purpose too - to teach us or remind us of something.

    Thank you for stopping by last night and for your lovely comment! Your blog has become a new favorite of mine. :-)

  5. true ending. we don't have good memories unless we are really living.

  6. I got choked up.

    I'm with you.

    You're not alone.

    Sometimes I worry that I won't remember what I need to. Then I read some words of fabulous children's author Elizabeth Winthrop: The memories are all there. Sometimes they are hiding, waiting for the right moment to make their appearance. They show up when we need them. Memories are a part of us. We lived through them.

    Those are not her exact words, but that was my take-away.

    So glad to have found you. My daughter has 4 more days in her junior year. Then she's a senior. Life with one headed out the door...

    I lost my mother years before she died. That my children never knew her is sad for me. Your post helped me.

  7. And now I'm crying again. Terry, this is beautiful (as are your boys), even if it paints the picture of pain you have experienced. Thank you for your courage in sharing it with us.

  8. So sorry for both of all your losses. I know it is painful to experience these things, but I know it has given you perspective. You embrace the living while remembering those that are no longer. This was a honest and raw post and I thank you for it.

  9. That we relive experiences through memories is a blessing and a curse. It seems cruel that we are more inclined to recall the negative experiences, vividly.

    This is a touching post and a hard topic. Memory is so complex. I will be thinking of your mother. My grandfather had Alzheimer's and my grandma, dementia.

  10. Well Terry. This was a tough one. At first I was all smiles, remembering Kyles's amazing speech, probably the best I've heard in my career. Then, reading on, I began to do exactly what I didn't want, make it about me. Just too darned painful. I guess that's what good writers do, make the readers think, relate, reflect, smile, laugh, cry. I just don't want to go to that memory deficit place. Teresa

  11. Poignant and beautifully written.

    My grandmother has on-set Dementia (from her Parkinsons) and it scares me in many ways. I knew her when she could remember things but many of my siblings didn't. It's kind of hard to watch, really.

  12. Terry, I once had a writing professor who told us that the more we wrote and exercised that muscle (see Motherese today!) the more we would actually remember. I do find that when I'm writing and really working hard at recreating my life, the memories do come back.

    And your mother's condition now strikes close to home, since my mom just got the same diagnosis. She's fine now but now there are a lot of I don't knows.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  13. Oh, Terry, my friend...I need to wipe the tears away as I write this. Know that you are not alone in any of this. Know that your kids may not remember any of these moments either, but they KNOW they are loved. Know that the great thing about the past is it can be changed by living in the NOW. Live presently. I'm saying this as much for you as for me. Take care.

  14. A beautiful post. And I feel you.

    I, too, am past the memories of little children. In the late teen years - a set of challenges that are very different as you know.

    The early years are already a blur, with certain moments clear, and others, thankfully, captured in pictures or in writing set to paper at the time. Moments I've gathered together for this memory-assignment purpose.

    Losing memories - or simply having them blurred - is a real fear. Especially when you live it in your parents, your grandparents. The pain of no recognition. I remember that in each of my grandmothers in their last years. As though you have been erased. So we must remain the vessels of whatever recollections we can hold. Mark makers through our words, our images, our stories.

  15. Life does hold many painful memories, but don't forget the good. Try to hold on to them as long as you can. Many of us with younger kids are lucky. We can document every memory and share it with the world with a click of our mouse. I have a family website that we post all of our holidays, birthdays, snapshots of life. They will be stored forever along with stories to go with them. We are very lucky in this and should take full advantage. Today's memories are tomorrow's family histories. Write them down! Document them! Leave your footprint!

  16. I often think that I wish I would have had my blog when my kids were babies...but I'm really glad I have it now. I wrote things down, but not the way I do now. I'm so sorry for your loss...of your father and of the mother that you knew. I do know she senses you. That bond is too strong not to.

  17. Yours is my first "memory" post. The bar has been set high. Lovely, just lovely. And I don't usually ask people to visit my blog in their comments but I think my "memory" post might touch you and I would love to know your thoughts on the questions it poses.