Pen the Memory on the Lifeline

Mental processes are all about connections.  Like the daily commuter, one traveling down  memory lane depends on each thought transfer being at its assigned destination on time.  I used to use mass transit to make the connections from one moment to the next.   I have  jauntily sauntered over hill and dale, able to recall anything on demand…like the cable television service.  At one point in my family it was almost like a party game…pen the memory on the lifeline.  The kids would ask about some random experience or even where anything in the house could be located, down to the smallest item,  and I could astound and amaze with great dexterity and deftness  that may have rivaled the process of rifling through a file cabinet.  (Alright, it wasn’t at light speed but, I got there before they gave up and walked away)

Today my brain synapses are a little run down and the drivers don’t show up for work on time.  If a household member wants to know where something is, they have to don a spunky cap and cape, clenched pipe in teeth and investigate.  I don’t get invited to those parties much anymore, either.   However, one thing remains…the value of writing our memories, our family heritage, our heart’s hopes and dreams across the lifespan of our children and their children.

My grandfather endured Alzheimer’s for over a decade before he passed away.  I didn’t understand what was happening to him.  I was in my thirties, busy raising five children and could only acknowledge that he was losing his memory.  The emotional nuances of that experience, the impact on his own sense of getting up each day and going to sleep each night…that I couldn’t fathom.   At times he could remember.   I wonder now if he realized that he would also again forget.  With each memory that slips from my own recollection, I stand at the edge of his experience astounded by how much he prevailed, even in the midst of succumbing.

My grandfather, Poppy (as I named him – being the oldest grandchild),  represented all that was wise and profound about the world.  He seemed to understand life and his opinions, to me, were always right.  It is, as I wander across the landscape of my own memories, difficult to find a time when his perspective didn’t take the high view.  Maybe that was what seemed so magical to me about him…his sense of perspective and intuition.  They say that seeing is believing, but with Poppy and I…well, maybe believing was seeing.  He was right because I believed in him.  He had hopes and dreams, triumphs and tragedies, travels and travails the likes of which made life’s expansive terrain rise up as the sun on the horizon.

While many people found my Poppy to be stubborn and opinionated, which he was, I’m not always sure that they fully realized what virtue was wrought upon the earth by his presence.  Even his faults couldn’t overshadow the creativity and proclivity for invention that blew through the boughs of my life like a spring breeze.  He lit my imagination on fire from the time I was a little girl.  I can see where I bear his genetic markers.  They are the pens with which I have written so much of my own experience and perspective upon the lives of my family, even though they be tossed with more zeal than aim from the hand of the news carrier at times.

From my grandmother I learned the balance.  NanNan (so named by me because she was too young at heart to be called grandmother), the rose in the garden of Poppy’s world, has written  journals of quotations and thoughts about choosing a positive attitude and reflecting on the value which could be derived from all of life’s moments.  She has pasted clipped pictures and sayings from magazines like a road map for my future.  Repeatedly she has told me that I put her on an undeserved pedestal.  She has never wanted to injure me when she would, inevitably, fall off.  I remember standing in her kitchen the first time she made that bold statement.  My mind’s eye saw her standing statuesque on the wheeled kitchen stool I upon which I so often entertained myself  as she cooked.  At her revelation I saw her tumble to the floor, having lost her balance, and felt only compassion rather than judgment or disillusionment.  My reply continues to be that it is in her very real humanity that I find my hope to encourage others as she has encouraged me.

Consequently, the library of my own life contains volumes of experience and perspective from which I leave my version of Cliffs Notes for my own children and grandchildren.  I’ve never written that which would harm them, but I have included the full range of experience, hopefully pointing out the view from different vantage points along the topography of our lives.  As they grow, so will their understanding and ability to decode my messages.  I just pray they don’t bury me with the decoder ring still on my finger.

We have to engage our own process, become part of the world wide life long web that connects us.  We take clues from that which others write upon the papyrus of our lives.  A beautiful story unfolds as we do and perhaps, as we get older, we even remember  where we last saw that very item someone is looking for.  The most important items lie safe within each heart.