MEMORIES CAN BE GOOD … OR THEY CAN BE ones we don’t particularly want to remember because they are so terribly wrong and/or bad. But, no matter what memories there are in our lives, they are what makes us who we are, whether we like it or not.
Last Friday, I was trying to get my head into the “blog space” of getting my current one finished when my mind flooded — literally flooded with memories. What brought it on? The simple act of slicing up an orange. Oh, so many memories. It was like the domino-effect of one memory on top of another, cascading in my mind. Good memories, mostly, but some sad memories came too. Because, that’s life. The memories centered around my dad. As he climbed the business ladder as a chemical engineer into management, he managed to keep our lives rich in family things, like simple meals: sliced oranges (yup, remember, this was the trigger) with powered sugar, usually followed by eggs and bacon, or cornmeal mush, and fresh squeezed orange juice with our breakfast. Or there were the family vacations he was able to squeeze into his busy schedule: camping trips to the Sierras, to Trinity, Twin and June Lakes areas, to Tuolomne Meadows (my personal favorite destination); a trip up into Oregon and another time through Four Corners and the desert and mountain states … the list goes on. I caught my first fish (later — much later — I was told they’d just stocked the lake … sigh) on one of those trips; watched my dad as he floated a the highly saline June Lake, spouting water like a whale … all fond memories.
But, I also remember taking care of him as he slowly and painfully lost his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The agony he (repeatedly) went through when he found out mom died (how does one deal with this while you yourself are trying to deal with it??). I finally stopped telling him when he’d ask. I couldn’t stand seeing the fresh pain that stabbed him in the heart each and every time he heard of her death; discovering he felt abandoned — he thought his mother had deserted him (she died from an illness when he was very young and he said no one ever told him — not sure this is true, but not important … he did feel abandoned) and trying to help him understand that. Falling then being stuck in a wheel chair as his fractured hip healed, he could not understanding why he couldn’t get up and walk around like he used to … and calling me his wife — I learned to constantly give him verbal clues (“Daddy”) to help keep it straight in him mind what my role in his life should be. Other things like his wandering off — scaring me half to death when I found out he’d somehow managed to get across the freeway with his dog to buy a leash; his time in the hospital with “good-intentioned” doctors and staff that didn’t know how to handle him (wanting to restrain him!) — or properly medicate him when medications he’d been taking ulcerated his stomach. These are part of the sad memories of my dad, but each experience (and how I handled them) has helped shape who I am.
I am a better person for having encountered each experience: each has helped to shape how I respond to new experiences; how I handle encounters with people — of all sorts; how I live my life. Through them all, having a good foundation (thanks to my parents) — something to fall back onto when things get sketchy — is paramount. First and foremost, my dad was a stickler for attending church. We all grumbled (to varying degrees) about it, but we learned about God and what an awesome pillar of strength He could be if we allowed it. For that, I am forever thankful.
That one thing — having God to lean on — and each experience building upon the next helped me through the deaths of my parents and my husband … and through all the ups and downs in life.
I was too young when my first grandmother died — I don’t even remember being allowed to attend the funeral. When my grandfather (her husband) grew ill, I was not allowed to see him in the hospital, but when he died, It was felt I was apparently old enough to attend the grave-side burial services. All I remember is sitting in the back with my cousin, goofing around and giggling (and being shushed by my mom) — obviously not old enough for the proper decorum. With the death of my dad’s father, then mother, I was much older and the gravity of their deaths was felt deeply. As my aunts and uncles passed away (both before and after my parents and husband’s deaths, each one was a blow, but God helped ground me, helped get me through. And before his death, with each of my husband’s catastrophic illnesses, again, I remained calm (people kept commenting on it and I was beginning to wonder if I was not engaged with the gravity of the situation, but finally realized it was simply because I leaned on God for my strength — and that was a good thing). I was able to come through to the other side in one piece, at peace … and refreshed.
Repetition, life experiences and leaning on God. Yup. That pretty much sums up how we build our lives. Well, it’s how I formed mine, at least. And, it seems to be a good formula for me.
…And in light of the news from today: the loss of an icon, Leonard Nimoy … a all-time favorite of mine, that’s what I’ll be doing — definitely shedding tears, but mostly, praying for his family and friends and leaning on God …
May your life be peppered with ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, creating the strong, vital character that is you. Hopefully you too have someone to lean on to make it through to the other side, in one piece and at peace.