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A Time to Remember: Part Three

I dedicate approximately one third of my blog space to memories, because I have almost seven decades of living to share. My husband and I love looking back over our fifty-five years of scrapbooks. Our family and friends, who are also featured in these books, seem to enjoy browsing through the pages too. As important as detailed memories are, I have learned, through caring for family members with dementia, that it isn’t always the details that matter the most. Sometimes, remembering is simply a warm, familiar feeling made up of years of accumulated moments.

My mother-in-law has become a major part of my life; I met her fifty-five years ago. I have absorbed her stories; they are part of me. She has lived with Alzheimer’s for more than a decade, and she listens, enthusiastically, when I tell her about her life. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, she would ask me for details about a specific event. Now, she just marvels at the woman she used to be. If I tell her how beautifully she used to set a table, she seems pleased to know that she took the time. More than anyone, she loves to sit down, quietly, with a pile of our scrapbooks.

As my mother-in-law’s ability to remember details has declined, she has gained another perception. She soaks up new experiences, and remembers old ones, on a more subliminal level. Her room is full of photos. She often giggles at a photo taken during her courtship with her late husband; they were obviously in love. One day, she asked me if that man was her boyfriend. I told her she married that good-looking fellow, back in 1941. She used to describe him in great detail, but more recently, she smiles and remarks that he was always kind and considerate. At these times, I can see in her expression that she remembers his essence. I knew him, and he was exactly as she remembers. She hasn’t forgotten him. She has simply found a new way to remember him. He is a feeling.This year, while putting up my Christmas decorations, I took particular notice of my familiar Christmas feeling. I call it the Christmas tickle. It originates somewhere in my belly and bubbles right up to my smile. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I know it began when I was a child. I know it is a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and hope, seasoned with memories, and triggered by lights, special foods, seasonal music, and gift giving. The details of all those Christmases have faded, somewhat, but the Christmas feeling has grown stronger than ever. I think it’s as close as I can come to understanding the way my mother-in-law now remembers. The Christmas feeling comes with no expectations or details. It’s just an essence.  Not everyone has great Christmas memories, and dealing with my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s hasn’t always been easy. She resisted help at every stage. Convincing her to move into an assisted living place, and helping her pick a walker, provided me with difficult memories. She became quite negative for a time. However, we kept visiting, taking her out, and telling her about her life. She remains proud, and private, as she approaches her 98th birthday. She seems, at last, rather content. She is free to live in the moment.I am encouraged by the knowledge that for my mother-in-law, it was the bad memories that faded first. The good memories, it seems, have taken on a warm fuzzy essence. This is an unexpected gift, at any time of year, but at Christmas it seems particularly encouraging. 

 

To read more about my mother-in-law please click on I Miss My Mother-in-law and A Christmas Tradition in Saskatchewan.  

To read Part One, and Part Two of A Time to Remember click on the highlighted parts. 

Here's to the Christmas tickle and to savouring the feeling. 

 

 

 

Comments (7)

  • Rob Johnsen May 24, 2019 at 04:33 pm

    Very touching piece. My father had Alzheimer's so I can relate. I enjoy reading so many of the memory stories you have written so eloquently. Thanks so much for sharing with us all.

  • sakina madini November 28, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    This blog was written with love and respect.
    I like your memories with your mother-in-law and your family and how you are still helping her now.
    I love this story. I couldn't stop to reading it.

  • Mandy Ross November 25, 2017 at 12:27 am

    Beautifully written as always Maureen. I love that idea of a feeling in our bodies! It’s a perfect description and something we need to be more aware of.

    Big hugs

  • Mitzi Gold November 24, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Aloha Maureen:
    You are a wonderful storyteller! Frank & I enjoyed our time and adventures with you and Gord. Best wishes for the holidays and into the new year, 2018!
    Hugs,
    Mitzi

  • Marion Murawsky November 24, 2017 at 01:15 pm

    Maureen
    Such a nice story. Marj’s smooth transitions are due in part to your love & care of her, making her life enjoyable with visits & outings!!!
    I love the Christmas season in the same way that you & your family do. Hope you have a wonderful one!
    Love, Marion

  • the Boy November 24, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Thanks to a special girlfriend and wife who has kept the memories of our lives since we started dating at 12 years old. What treasures we can look back on!

  • Wilma Poole November 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Hi Maureen: This blog touched me deeply and made me cry....thank you so much for stirring up some of my memories and experiences.....good and so called bad....love, Wilma

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