A group of my former classmates and I are planning our fifty year class reunion. Several have brought in photos taken on our senior trip to the Smoky Mountains. As they look at the tiny, blurry photos and reminisce, I realize how little I remember about the trip. I remembered the Grand Ole Opry. I remembered the towns of Gatlinburg and Chattanooga, Tennessee. I remembered traveling to the top of the mountain in a cable car. But as far as the shenanigans—the fake gun fight, the bathroom window on the bus falling out, a group going out looking for a place to bowl and getting stopped by the local police—I have zero recollection.
“I know I wasn’t drunk, so I don’t know why I can’t remember all the things you remember,” I said to the group.
“I can’t remember much about it either,” Cindy admitted.
Maybe the reason the memory of the senior trip faded so quickly for me was because Jim and I traveled so much. We always went west, but once in a while I would suggest the Smoky Mountains, but it just didn’t work into our plans.
Now, oddly enough, on close to the fiftieth anniversary of the senior trip, we will be taking our girls’ trip to South Carolina. On the way, we will be going through the Smoky Mountains. For me, this is an area I haven’t been to in half a century. It seems just a little odd that I went to a meeting with the planning committee and drove a few blocks to my mom’s house to plan a trip to the same area.
One thing I’m sure of—a lot will have changed in fifty years. If nothing else, I have changed. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll visit certain sites that will bring about a feeling of déjà vu. Will the places call forth events stored in locked parts of my brain? Will I feel sadness for those in the class of ’69 who now reside in eternity and not with us?
I have heard that some of my former classmates have memory problems. I don’t know that anyone has been diagnosed with dementia, but then not everyone receives a diagnosis. According to the statistics, one in ten of us will develop Alzheimer’s in our lifetimes. We have already reached the age of vulnerability, and are too old for younger onset dementia.
It’s a little bit concerning that I can’t remember much at all about the senior trip, but it would be devastating to not know the people I love. Recently, I’ve visited with two men who held an important role in my life. One looked at me and said, “I don’t know who you are.” So, I told him who I was. The other gave me a hug, but never talked or showed any recognition in his eyes. You have to hate a disease that does that to people you love.
Although it made me sad, I didn’t regret seeing either of them. One, I was told, was just having a bad day. The other, I was told, can’t remember anything anymore. His family is just spending time with him and helping him enjoy life as much as they can.
Unfortunately, the road less traveled is often the one that leads to special care units in nursing homes. Excuses abound, but sometimes people just don’t have the fortitude to give unconditional love to those who no longer seem to even know who they are.
In the end, when they can’t remember you, you still remember them. If the person you are hesitating to visit played a major role in your life, you are cheating yourself. If you don’t share hugs, words of love, and bring a smile to someone’s face, you are the big loser.
Travel that road. Take the time to hold fast to the memories that linger in your heart. Life has robbed a person with dementia of their memories, and he lives only in the moment. The more moments you share with your loved one, the more happiness you bring into his life, and yours. As we travel through life, we need to enjoy the journey before we reach the final destination.
Copyright © April 2019 by L.S. Fisher