“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.