It Hurts to Forget

Balance.  Our world will not be thrown off balance.  Violence is countered with love. Strength reaches down and lifts weakness to its feet.  Darkness, even the deepest darkest night, will be illuminated by the daylight. Two. It can not be achieved alone.  It requires two parts, two halves. Two paths, two outcomes, too many uncertainties about which side will show its face. Will it be love and kindness, forgiveness and fortune? Or will it be death, destruction, ruin, or stagnation? Balance is a violent force in our lives.  It can be our rescuer in time of need, or our most terrifying nightmare, out to destroy us and everything we know and love.

We all have to remember something that is painful in our lives.  But is it more painful to forget? It’s a crazy thought, one I was forced into. Who hasn’t had something happen that they want to forget? How many times did you think it would be better if you could just wash it away like it never happened. Ignorance is bliss, right? But what if forgetting is more painful than remembering? Would you really want to forget?  

I come from a small family.  Holidays were my uncle, grandmother, two aunts, mother, and me.  No one was married or had kids other than my mom, her and my father were divorced.  Growing up it was just my mother and I. You form a special bond when you grow up in that type of situation. Of course, she will always be my mother, but she was also my friend. But my mother does not remember that we were friends.  She no longer gets to choose what all her memories are. My mother is suffering from Dementia.

I can remember when balance favored my family.  I haven’t forgotten a single one of the sweet memories that we made together.  My uncle has faded into a memory. I no longer hear his model trains in the morning or his snoring in the afternoon. I don’t hear my grandmother complain about him or tell me about the time the F.B.I came to the door looking for him.  He is just a memory. My grandmother, who I would interrupt reading her bible every night, to ask for a piece of candy that she kept by her bed. I don’t hear her call for me, “little bit” anymore. She doesn’t reach in her brass and blue leather change pouch to give me shiny quarters anymore.  She is a memory. A sweet, sweet memory.

My aunt, a nurse from Washington D.C.  Who would always remind us that we lived in the country,  just because we lived in Ohio. She used to say that the news was different there in D.C. and that we didn’t get the big city news.  I no longer get to hear her awkwardly remind me to use a condom even though I was 12 years old. That was just the big city nurse in her. Being a nurse in the nation’s capital when the AIDS epidemic took off.

It was a humid July day I helped her move into her new home, an assisted living facility in the suburbs of Ohio.  She didn’t remember much. She would get so confused because, my father, my son, and I all have the same name. Aaron. This would confuse her to no end. Just a real mind fuck. It still confuses her to this day. She remembered home though, and she knew this was not that place.  She cried on my shoulder that day. Then she would lash out at me for bringing her there. Then she would cry on my shoulder some more. I don’t really know what she remembers anymore. I hope she remembers some of the great times we had together as a family. How great she made me feel when I was a young man.  How I knew I could count on her, and tell her anything, anything.

I wonder what she remembers about my mom.  I wonder what my mom thinks about her. I wonder if they remember each other.  

It’s easy to forget that we have control over our memory, at least to an extent.  Who are you if you don’t remember what you were? I see the effect that memories have on my mom when I talk to her.  Even when she does recall something, it is so visceral. It can be a sad emotion like when my father passed away two years ago, and she just could not make herself go to the funeral.  This was when her dementia just showed up, out of nowhere. The pain of losing him broke her.

They were divorced for over twenty years, but she was still so deeply in love with him. I never saw her go on a date not once my whole life. Not in middle school, not in high school, and not in college. She just subsisted off the memories of the past. The beautiful memories that they had together. I guess you don’t have to be married to die of a broken heart. Even if it doesn’t kill you, it may just knock you so far off balance that you never find your way back. We have to fix that stuff now while we can. Don’t wait, I tell myself. We just can not wait. The scales could tip, today, tomorrow.

Memories for her have become just too painful. Even happy memories remind her that she is locked away, arguably no different than a low-security prisoner, concrete walls and all. What do you talk about when every memory makes you ache? An ache in your heart, ache in your body and ache in your soul.

Nothing.  I think she tries to think about nothing.  She attempts to keep her mind clear, to keep herself free of pain.  My mother has dementia, and she spends most of her days trying to forget.

A. Carroll  


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