Struggling to remember

My memory is not that good.  In fact, my sister & I joked with our mom over the weekend that we think she makes memories up since neither of us know what she’s talking about half the time.   We had a great childhood so it’s not as if I’m trying to block the memories out; maybe I just remember only the best ones.

That’s where my grandfather is right now, though through no choice of his own.  He has dementia and can’t remember his own grandchildren or even children sometimes.  It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen my grandparents (I’m in Atlanta and they’re in Mobile) so this past weekend I went and spent time with them.  It was obvious he didn’t know who I was but you could tell he knew he should know me. You could see the struggle every time he looked at me.  Every five minutes our conversation went something like this:

“Girl, how old are you now?”

“I’m 45.”

“Naw, you can’t be that old.”

Smiling I’d say “I know! I look too good to be that old don’t I?!”

After the first ten times of the same conversation, and knowing he is great at math,  I started changing it up.

“Girl, how old are you now?”

“I’m half as old as you are.”

You could see the wheels turning  and then laughing he’d say,

“Well, I’m only 39 so I guess that makes you 19, huh?”

Granny would just smile and say “Frank, you know you just turned 90”.  So then he looked at me and said, “So I guess that makes you 45.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Naw, you can’t be that old.”

“I know! I look too good to be that old don’t I?!”

This went on the entire time I was there. Some people become impatient with him.  I just pretended like it was the very first time he had asked.  Since he couldn’t remember recent events, I started asking him questions about things I knew he could remember.

“Pop, when did you join the Army?”

“Well, you know I tried to join the Marine Corps like my dad.  But they had a waiting list and only took a certain number each month.  By then the Army had drafted me so I became a soldier.”

“Where did you go?”

“France.  Did you know that I jumped into France just 12 miles from where my Dad jumped in during WWI?”

“How did you end up Jackson the night you met Granny?”

“I was working for Dixie Tank and Bridge Company repairing and installing water tanks.  We were on our way from Texas back to Memphis to resupply, when we stopped in Jackson (MS).   We went to church and her cousin asked me which one of those girls in the choir did I want to get to know better.  I pointed to the one in blue, and that was your Granny.”

Granny & Pop went out that night over cokes and rode around talking.  A year later they were married on June 12, 1948.

Frank and Betty. June 12, 1948

Sunday was their 68th wedding anniversary.  In an age where people give up on marriage at the first hint of a struggle, they are an example that it can be done. They had their first son, Mitchell (my Daddy) in Nov. 1949; Larry came along in April 1951; Steve in August 1952.  Thinking their family was complete, they were surprised when in 1960, Pam, came along.

Larry, Steve, Pam and Mitchell (Daddy)

They’ve raised children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all kinds of animals. Horses, cats, dogs, and even chickens;  24,000 chickens to be exact!  For all of the memories he should have, Pop can only remember the ones from long ago.  And since those mostly includes my Granny, I’m okay with that.  He still calls her Sapphire (a nickname that he’s used for the last 45 years), fixes biscuits for her every morning and sits in the same spot they have sat in for the last 20+ years for every meal.

And for a few minutes each day, I felt he remembered me, Tina, his first grandchild.  We took selfies and laughed and even shared devotions each night.

I don’t know when I will be able to go see them again but I am thankful for the time I had.  As hard as it was for me, I know it’s harder for Granny.  She has to watch her life-mate struggle to remember those he loves and know that one day, it could be her.  Go see your parents and grandparents while they remember- it’s a must but is so hard once they forget.



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