My Memory

aide-memoire-800px“Don’t forget,” my wife reminds me, “tomorrow is your mother’s birthday.”

I had already forgotten.

I doubt that my mother remembers either.  She suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s.  Still, what matters is not that she remembers her birthday, it is that others do.

So we resolve to visit her.

It is a hundred mile drive and when we arrive she will not know who we are.  She has forgotten us all.  She forgot everything about her life – even who she is.

Still, there are things she remembers perfectly. She can recall every lyric to every song she once knew.  It is as if the eraser of Alzheimer’s has spared the region of her memory where music resides.

So I never challenge her to remember who I am or who she is.  All I say is, “Can you sing ‘Tell Me Why’?”

And she does.

Tell me why the stars do shine
Tell me why the ivy twines
Tell me why the sky’s so blue
and I will tell you just why I love you

Because God made the stars to shine
Because God made the ivy twine
Because God made the sky so blue
Because God made you that’s why I love you

When she sings, she remembers how to smile.  When she sings, she forgets how to be confused and afraid.  When she sings, she forgets that she forgets.

It worries me though when I forget things and I have been forgetting more and more since retirement.  I forget appointments. I forget where I put things. I forget what day of the week it is.

Forgetting things is easy when there is less of a reason to remember them.  It is a rare thing now to have to be anywhere and there seems little difference between weekdays and weekends.  The only thing that is critical to remember is that one cannot buy beer on Sunday in Minnesota.  For that we have Iowa – which thankfully is not far.

And as I slowly lose my edge, my wife makes up for it.  She remembers whose birthday is coming up.  She remembers when it is Sunday and where my razor is least that I lost it become an excuse for not shaving.

She updates the calendar and makes sure our doctor and dental appointments fall on the same day at the same hour – least I forget.

So who needs a memory when you are married to one?

But it bugs me that I always forget and it bugs her that she has to remind me.

The next morning before driving to the Twin Cities, my wife stows her sunglasses in the little compartment between the visors. It is cloudy, so she doesn’t need them.

“Now,” she says, ” it is your job to remind me where I put them.”

It’s my job because I do not forget important things like that – but she does.

Author: Almost Iowa

39 thoughts on “My Memory”

  1. I have seen the innocence of people with Alzheimer’s. It’s such a pity, yet so amazing to see such courage and love of the family members!

  2. Spent the last two days with my “Irish Twin” who has early onset ALZ…it’s tough and runs in the family. Both hubby and I suffer from mild memory lapses and I am grateful we have each other for support. Thanks for writing about this issue as it is widely spread in our country.

  3. What a wonderful post. You describe your mother singing with such lovely detail that it’s as if I am there. “Eraser of Alzheimer’s” is such a perfect way to describe it. My cousin, who is 69, is no longer able to live at home with his wife. She and his kids visit him frequently, as they live close by. Sometimes he knows them, but often not. I worry about my memory. Yet every perceived injustice by my husband over the years is crystal clear, lol.

  4. How wise of you to make the focus of your visits to your mother simply having a good time together. She may not remember your visit a few minutes after you leave, but at least you know she had a good time while you were there. And maybe, while she is singing, you have your mom again, at least for just a little while.

    1. It has so that we limit our visits to a half an hour. After that she gets too tired. Sometimes when she doesn’t feel like singing, we just walk up and down the halls. Every day is different.

  5. We are starting that journey with my mother. It is very sad and leaves a hollow shell. I need to remember to try music when I visit. I’m glad you have Iowa to fall back on for beer on Sundays should you forget! That’s the important one.

    1. Mom has advanced Alzheimer’s which can make visits stressful for her, especially when people try to get her to remember who they are. Instead we just focus on having a good time. I kid her and get her to laugh and of course to sing.

      It is always important to have a back-up state to get around the blue-laws. 🙂

  6. I have a cousin and a friend who both are coping with their husbands’ dementia, and it’s both sad and terrifying to watch from the outside. For them, it must be even worse. I know it was when they each experienced the “escape’ of their loved one, before they realized how far things had progressed. As one caregiver said, it really is as though they’re toddlers. You think you have them corralled, but turn your back, and POOF! They can be six blocks down the street.

    I know the tune of your song, and I could sing it even without the lyrics. My mother used to sing it to me as a lullaby. I’m a little teary, myself.

    1. It is said that to leave toast in the toaster is forgetfulness, to forget what the toaster is for is dementia and that is where things get hard. When mom left the oven on and the burners burning, we chalked it up to forgetfulness then when it came to the point where we considered unplugging the over, we knew she had a problem.

      I don’t know what it is about that song but music is the stuff of emotion and that song taps deep into the well.

  7. Brings tears to my eyes about your Mom. Alzheimer’s is the most difficult of all diseases I think. I’m so sorry for you! I am so glad you find wonderful ways to help her, though, and allow her to smile and sing beautiful songs that make her feel alive and vital and happy. Now YOU Mister! Not remembering your Mom’s birthday! No excuse buddy! No excuse! (wink!)

    1. I always forget birthdays. I forget meetings and appointments too. I forget why I drove to the store and I forget to bring the groceries into the house…. yet I can remember perfectly every intricate setting in a million line of code software program. It is just one of those things…

  8. Love that your Mom remembers how to sing & the words to her favorite song! Alzheimer’s steals so many pleasures. So, why not use your phone calendar to remind you of events & things to do? You’ll get a run down of what’s coming up & what’s on that day’s agenda! 🎆 Christine

  9. I can’t imagine having a loved one with the dreaded disease. Amazing how she remembers things like lyrics so well.
    It always scares me when I forget things. Like you I feel like I’m losing my edge but as you suggest, there are less reasons to have one sometimes.
    Prayers to your mom and even though she won’t remember…Happy Birthday!

  10. As I join you in those dim spots where it is no longer necessary to remember i was touched by your story. I can imagine the pain of losing a parent through the fog. I hope those singing times are of comfort. Whether she knows you or not I’m sure she appreciates your visit.

  11. Randy and I were talking about this exact topic last evening as he reached into his uniform pocket and pulled out a bolt. “Oh,” he said, “here’s that bolt I couldn’t find at work today.”

    To which I replied, “I could have found it for you.” True. I have retrieved many a “lost” item for husband and son. But I don’t remember quotes like “Sometimes it’s just a dream,” quoted to me this morning from a a long ago Saturday Night Live episode. Who remembers stuff like that? The husband.

    I am so sorry about your mom. I was nearly in tears reading those song lyrics. My mom is also becoming more and more forgetful and it’s difficult to see that in her. She lives 2 1/2 hours away (five round trip if you’re good at math) so I don’t see her that often. But I do phone her at the same time every Sunday evening and she repeats herself often.

    1. I got a bit moist eyed too typing the lyrics to that song. It is my mother’s favorite song, one she would sing in the car late at night as we drove home from visiting relatives. We never listened to the radio on those drives, instead the entire family would sing… I guess it kept us all from bickering and slugging each other – and it made memories, wonderful memories.

  12. Music is amazing for folks with dementia. It’s so hard to see the decline but I remember something a therapist shared. Think q-tip. Quit taking it personal. Love them, let the disease behavior go

    1. I only have one goal when I visit her, that she have a good time. She has no idea who I am and I tell her it is unimportant, that I am there to visit her – and please, can she sing?

        1. I hope it works for you.

          With my mother, dementia has brought stress and fear. She doesn’t know where she is or why people are talking to her, so I never try to challenge her to remember anything because that just increases her stress – but when she sings, all of that melts away.

  13. That’s the way marriage is supposed to work. Divide all of life’s mindless necessities and conquer them all. I never remember my mother’s birthday, but my wife does and I usually get the credit.

    1. To be honest, I am finding Facebook more reliable at remembering about birthdays and reminding me. It’s called their “Knock, Knock, Pudd’n Head” feature.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: