Well Mom, 17 years have come and gone and I’ve missed my usual deadline by several months now, but I have my reasons — or reason, as it were — which I’ll get to in a moment. And it is not the first; there was that little health problem I had a few years back, for example. And I suppose it’s rather ironic that I began writing this post on Mother’s Day, after all, but the timing is merely coincidental.
You see, back in mid-January I had wanted to write about a memory that I have about you — a happy one.
I was four or five, I think, and I had woken up early and wandered down the hall and into the living room — it was early Christmas Day, and I was excited — to say the least — to see what Santa Clause had brought me. Dad was sitting on the other side of the room beside the fireplace, sweeping out last night’s ashes to prepare for another fire, and you were standing there in your housecoat looking down at me, hands placed jauntily on your hips and a big smile on your face, your eyes dancing with delight. Dancing, I say, because my five-year-old self was nearly bursting with excitement, eyes big as proverbial saucers as they took in the seemingly endless bounty spilling out from under the Christmas tree.
I don’t really remember what you had said at that moment, or what Dad had said in reply, if anything. But then a host of angels could have appeared above our heads announcing with fanfare that Hell had, indeed, frozen over, but I wouldn’t have heard. The angels could even have said that the Bengals would now be cleared to win the Superbowl, what with the wintery weather in Hell and whatnot; I would scarcely have noticed.
For I was consumed with lust for brightly wrapped presents.
And yet, as I ran and slid to my pajama-clad knees underneath that tree amidst all those gifts, I remember suddenly being astonished as I heard you yell — yell! — at the top of your lungs: “Ken and Greg! Wake up! It’s Santa Clause time!” I remember turning around, open-mouthed, to stare at you. There you were, just as you were a moment ago, all smiles, your head silhouetted by the grey light slipping through the dining room windows behind you. And as you shouted again I began laughing with glee myself as I tore into the wrapping paper, because it was okay, on this particular day, to yell happily in the middle of the living room.
This was Christmas Day, after all. Of course I doubt my two older brothers — both in their teens at this point — were quite so amused as I was then, but that’s as may be.
Now I don’t remember much else about this particular Christmas; it’s all a blur. And to be honest I’m not sure, after 45-odd years, where exactly my memory ends and artistic embellishment begins. But I remember you standing in the living room smiling and hollering for Ken and Greg; of that I am sure. In fact I’ll probably take that memory to the grave myself — even, perhaps inevitably, as more recent memories are forgotten.
Or will I? I wonder …
You see I was sitting at my desk, much like I am now, wrapped up in the reverie bought on by old memories. As my hands moved to the keyboard my mind reached deep into that well for the particular memory laid out above — and it wasn’t there. It was gone only for the briefest of moments — albeit one that contained an ocean of regret, heart break and despair in the meantime — and then there it came, up from the depths, this memory suddenly playing out in my mind’s eye once more.
And yet still I paused, for then I had a greater realization of what had just happened. Was it just a momentary lapse? Or a symptom of something much worse: the first lapse of memory in an eventual string of such lapses on the inevitable decline into dementia? None of us siblings had yet known how you had struggled with memory those last few years, although Dad certainly knew. Is that what fate has in store for me?
So I took my hands away from the keyboard while I sat and pondered, and minutes turned to hours to days and so on; eventually winter turned to spring.
And here we are.
Now Mom you are probably thinking “Oh honey, just because you momentarily forgot something at 50 that happened when you were five is NOT a sign of senile dementia. Good grief!” Well you are probably right; I’m just being a hypochondriac. While genetics may be factor, other factors like lifestyle choices play a much bigger role.
So what else can I say? I do worry though, occasionally, in more of an … observational sense, than anything else, for if it does happen, there is nothing I can do.
But as I say I do worry, for memories of you and Dad — memories like this one — are all I have left.