Remind And Remember
January 19th, 2017
He bent over to adjust his socks, forgot halfway down what he was trying to do, and became furious, shaking so hard I had to hug him still.
Five minutes later, a little girl with the group that came to sing to him handed him a candy cane and he gave her a broad smile, his socks and his fury completely forgotten.
Those are two moments I remember from my father’s last Christmas, two moments I thought of as I laughed my way through a phone call with my brother.
That phone call was almost immediately forgotten, but I choose to believe the smile lingered a bit.
As published in The Memphis Daily News, January 20, 2017, and in The Memphis News, January 21-27, 2017
(photo: Brothers Frank, Jim and Dan, 2012)
I recently called my oldest older brother. I told him that there was snow on the ground outside my window, it was 19 degrees, my gardenia looked like a lime Popsicle, and I didn’t appreciate it. This time of year there’s generally a couple of feet of snow outside his Adirondacks window, 19 is downright balmy, and he’s often threatened to send some of that my way.
He laughed when I reminded him of that threat and then we talked and laughed about all sorts of things. He won’t remember any of them.
Frank is 13 years older and I barely remember him growing up, the blond guy in the living room reading books and blowing smoke rings, off to college when I was five.
The summer when I was six, I was playing with a stick in front of the house, pretending it was a Musketeer’s sword. I waved it at some young man passing and he yanked it away, broke it, and pushed me onto the sidewalk. Frank saw that from the porch, caught up with the guy two doors down, and knocked him through a hedge.
Frank won’t remember that, but I do.
The summer when I was seven, I came home in tears because everybody knew how to play baseball and I didn’t. Dad and Frank knew this was a crisis and spent the rest of that day and most of the next out in the yard with me throwing, catching, swinging, running and then rubbing my brand-new glove down (Nellie Fox model) with neatsfoot oil, sticking my brand-new ball in it (Rawlings), and tying it up with string.
Frank Sr. and Frank Jr. wouldn’t remember that, but I do.
Alzheimer’s insidiously took my father, and I think my mother, too, the constant pressure of caring for him causing the aneurysms that eventually took her. Frank now has Alzheimer’s, albeit and thankfully a quieter monster than the one Dad lived with but still hell’s own invention. The strength of my sister-in-law, Terry, and the devotion of their friends are powerful weapons and the medications to keep the monster at bay weren’t there for Dad 30 years ago. But still.
Frank lives in the moment, and when the moment has no pain, and there is laughter in it, sharing in it, clarity and light in it, it is truly fine. When the pain and the anger come there is blessed irony in the knowledge that they too will be forgotten.
I haven’t spoken to my other brother, Jim, about hereditary implications of Alzheimer’s, or being tested, or other things in the closet or under the bed and maybe we’ll get to that, and I don’t know what’s coming, but I do know this.
It is up to us to make sure that those we love are reminded of that love and remembered.
It is up to us to make the most of our moments because they are fleeting.
I’m a Memphian, and my big brother is remembered.