My Granny Memories
I remember the sweaters my Granny once gave my sister and I for Christmas. I remember how bright the fabric was and how there was no inside. They were reversible and really cool. I remember her laugh. It was a real laugh, an ever-present laugh. I remember how her smile always seemed to dance across her face and even occupied her deep brown eyes (though in retrospect, I now imagine part of her permanent smile was simply a consequence of her disease). I remember her hands. I remember that they always seemed crocked. They never seemed quite right. I remember that she had a funny phone. A duck phone, or something? It was probably Grandad’s phone anyways. He was that kind of Grandad. I remember pushing her wheelchair along the Bow River with my Grandad outside of her nursing home.
I remember the smell of old when I would escort Grandad in to meet his sweetheart for her daily walk; and how we had to navigate our way through all the locked and alarmed doors designed to keep her in.
I remember when she died.
I also remember that virtually my entire life, she was dying. Or, at least forgetting.
When I was 14, I spend a few weeks of summer vacation visiting with my Granddad and every day, we would visit my Granny, who was then in a care home due to advanced Alzheimer’s. I remember that during one of these visits, my aunt explained to me that it wasn’t sad to visit Gran anymore because the woman in the nursing home that loved singing and music and occasionally lit up when Grandad came to visit, that woman who used to be her mom, simply wasn’t anymore. Granny didn’t recognize or remember her own children. She was a shell, a skin of a woman. My aunt’s mother, my mother’s mother, my grandmother was already gone. She wasn’t there anymore. So, it wasn’t sad to my aunt.
But it was sad.
Forgetting is a sad thing.
When own mother surpassed the age Granny was when she got sick, I remember breathing a massive sigh of relief. I think she did too. My Mom’s faculties are on point. She stopped watching Jeopardy years ago because it got too easy. There is nothing she can’t do. And remembering is a huge part of who she is – of who we all are. It is what Granny lost, and in that simple thing, she lost herself.
Spencer W Kimball once explained that “the most important word [in the English language] is remember” (Kimball, 1968).
I think he was right.
To remember is exist in a community, in a family, in a body, in a life.
The other day, I found myself scrolling back through 2 years of Facebook pictures. Max and Addi and I were discussing how big they were when they were born and I couldn’t remember how many ounces Adelaide was at birth. I knew it was recorded on Facebook when we announced her birth (among other places) so I did a little searching and was able to find it. She was born at an adorable 7lbs and 11oz of cheeks and hair and she was happy to hear it. While she and Max toddled away to get into some midday mischief, I was left feeling a little bit empty and sad. My children’s birth details is probably not the most essential information in the universe, but it is information I never thought I’d be able to forget (and if you don’t think you could forget those precious details either, have four kids!), but I did.
The world we live in is full of photographs (and Facebook!) but these photographs ground us in our memories and allow us to remember. And remembering is such a vital part of our humanness.
So, today’s message is to exist in photos. It’s important to your kids. It’s important to your grandkids. It’s important to all of us.
PS if this post is too sentimental for you, I apologize, Zach made me watch The Giver last night and I’ve been stuck on the power of remembering ever since!