Category Archives: Memory Loss

When My Sister Plays the Piano

 

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This is  a poem written when I visited my sister in the first stages of memory loss. it is a bittersweet memory that I shared with only a few of you five years ago when I first started my blog but which very few people read, judging from the number of views and “likes.” This memory, as most are, is bittersweet.

When My Sister Plays the Piano

The first notes, beautiful and true, float like a memory up the stairs.
In the week I’ve been here in her house with her, she has not played the piano
and so I thought her music was gone like her memory of what day it is
or whether I am her sister, her daughter or an unknown visitor.

Yet on this morning after her 76th birthday celebration,
music slips like magic from the keys: song after song
from “Fur Elise” to a sweet ballad I don’t know the name of—
sure and correct at first,
then with a heartfelt emotion we had both forgotten.

“Midnight Concerto,”
“Sunrise, Sunset”—
song after song
expressed
in an unfaltering language—
some synchronicity of mind and hand
her brain has opened the door to.

While I listen, time stands still for me
as it has for her so often in the past few years
as yesterday and today shuffle together to
crowd out all consideration of future fears.

For ten minutes or more, she segues
from melody to melody
with no wrong note.
Then “Deep Velvet,”
a song she has played from memory
so many times,
dies after twenty-four notes.
Like a gift held out and snatched away,
I yearn for it, pray she’ll remember.

After an uncharted caesura, her music streams out again,
sweet and sure, for a staff or two—
the sheet music giving her a guide her brain so often can’t.
But after a longer pause, I know it is lost
like the thread of so many conversations.
A hiccup of memory, folding itself away.

“Come And Worship” chimes out
like the tolling of a bell.
The wisp of the old hymn, two phrases only—
before it, too, fades.

That sudden muffled sound.
Is it a songbook displaced from its stand as she searches for another;
or the lid of the piano, quietly closing on yet another partial memory?

 

The Ragtag prompt today was memories.

My Imaginary Friend

My Imaginary Friend

I have never had an imaginary friend until four years ago, when one suddenly appeared.  She has a special function in my life: memory.  When I’m driving to town and suddenly forget exactly where it is I’m going, I prod her and within a few seconds, she has the answer for me.  She never tires of these prods–even when I ask her the same question twice within the space of an hour or two.  Sometimes she even leaves me notes on the refrigerator.  “Catfood,” she scribbles, “Lampshade.” “Hem pants!”

As is necessary with good friends, I forgive her her shortcomings as she forgives mine.  When it took her an entire week to come up with the name of a woman whose name I keep confusing with another, I did not chide her.  When I forgot the name of one flower for an entire year, I ceased even asking her to provide an answer and in its own sweet time, memory brought the name to me with no prodding.

As with all imaginary friends, I do not call attention to her in public. We have our conversations in private, usually as I rail against myself, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” when the correct information will not come with the ease that it did before this particular decade.

It is she who decided I needed a wall hanger for glasses and keys and after fruitless minutes of my daily searches, reminds me that my car keys and reading glasses are where they’re supposed to be–on the rack!  She has been doing this for years, without complaint, and one of my main fears in life is that she will pass on before I do.

We have a pact, my imaginary friend and I, and if it is up to her and me, we will die peacefully, side by side, forty years from now when we are 110. By then she will be so worn out that she will deserve a rest, and by then I will probably be all too willing to go with her.

 

The prompt today wasimaginary.”  This is a reblog of a piece I wrote a few years ago.

 

 

Utilitarian Artifice

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Utilitarian Artifice

My sugar’s artificial. It’s a fact. So is my creamer.
A year ago, I had a little crackup in my Beemer,
and now I have an artificial ear and foot and femur.

Pretty soon my whole darn life will just be what it seems,
while the authentic “real” of me will be a thing of dreams.
I can’t find where I stored my leg, I left my fur coat somewhere.
I parked my car last week but can’t remember how to come there.

So if it’s really necessary—all this substitution,
I’m asking some inventor  to come up with a solution.
If artificial intelligence is the way it’s going to be,
please implant me with an artificial memory!

The prompt word today was “artificial.”

Layers


Layers

We store our truths in layers,
peeling back the amount we can stand to see.
Each year peels away some layers and builds others
until we grow in furrows and in hillocks.

Smooth truth is for the very young.
The old need their protections
as memory, like flesh and misfortune,
begins to bury itself to cluster underground

in cliques and hidden passageways,
lurking like guests in a British mystery play,
searching for us as we search for them in kind.
Old beaus, lost children and beachside vacations

sealed shoulder-to-shoulder in a too-small room––
a pantry, perhaps, or closet––
waiting waiting
to be peeled away.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/layers/

Ashes and Dust and : NaPoWriMo 2016, Day 25 and “Whisper,” WordPress Daily Prompt

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“After all our years have settled like dust . . .”
                                           ––okc forgottenman

Ashes and Dust

When that cruel wind
blows against memories
that have settled like dust
on our lives,

what  will remain
sealed in our crevasses
––fine furniture that we are
of a bygone age?

What remaining minutes
of a long life of years
will define us then?
A kiss? A child held in arms?
Regrets? Terrors?

In those storerooms
where people  sit
stacked in silent cubicles,
what zephyrs whisper through
to stir the embers
of their minds?

Is there music in those currents
or are they the sad
whining winds
that curl over headstones
and lament the dust that settles there,

moaning through cracks in attics
and around hanging eaves troughs,
causing them to swing and bump
lonely against the fading
wood of abandoned houses?

LIfe builds us and wears us away
like the mountain.
Like sand on the beach.
We are not above it all.

No matter how much power
we think we gain,
Nature is a wind that breathes
into us at birth,
then blows itself away.

The NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem making use of the first line of someone else’s poem.  You can find the poem by okc forgottenman that I drew inspiration from Here. The WordPress prompt was “whisper.”

 

http://www.napowrimo.net/day-twenty-five-2/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/whisper/

 

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Re”tire”ment

When I was younger, my mind turned on a dime.
I did what I had to do in very little time.
But now that I am older, things don’t go so fast.
I’m not “spur-of-the-momentish” as I was in the past.

I don’t throw big parties as I did in former days,
for dealing with the details just puts me in a haze.
I can’t do many things at once without getting confused.
Now I simply write my blog while once I danced and boozed!

At first I felt ashamed of how my life is slowing down,
hating that I do not seek the company of town.
But then I noted patterns in nature around me
and saw that this is simply how our lives are meant to be.

Each thing in its season and each thing in its time
is how our lives are ordered—to accept this is sublime.
Why do I need to live my youth and middle age again?
Why not just accept that this is how my life has been

and go on to the next stage without sadness or regret—
going on to see just how much better life can get?
Yes, it is the pits to get arthritic, slow and hazy;
but we are compensated by excuses to be lazy!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Heat is On.” Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it? Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of? Tell us how you work best.

Bogged Down in Blog

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Bogged Down in Blog

It’s hard to write while traveling–
your half-knit thoughts unravelling
as they call you in to talk
or have a meal or take a walk.

You sleep in other people’s houses,
wrinkles in your unpacked blouses,
possessions jumbled in your cases,
move at unfamiliar paces.

You live a life that’s not your own–
daily walking, driven, flown
while trying to remember faces,
confused by all these different places.

In the past I adored going–
miles passing, airwaves flowing.
I loved to move like a rolling log,
but that was when I didn’t blog!!!

Now I find I’m scurrying.
Wake up already hurrying.
I’m confused and frankly dumb,
forgetting where I’m coming from

as well as where I’m going to.
I’ve lost a sock and lost one shoe.
Still, I find time to write each day,
here in some room, hidden away.

This daily writing’s an addiction
that makes real life a dereliction!
I short my hosts to do my writing.
I’ve given up my life for citing!


The Prompt: State of Your Year–How is this year shaping up so far? Write a post about your biggest challenges and achievements thus far.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/

The Twenty-fifth Hour

DSC08473I found five old passports and an international driving permit from 1986.
Why, oh why can I not find my current passport?


The Twenty-fifth Hour

An extra hour would be nice. A day’s not long enough.
I know I’d use the extra hour looking for lost stuff!
My passport has gone missing and it’s been a major pain.
I would give most anything to have it back again.
I’ve looked in all my files, my drawers and every purse.
I have too many places. It couldn’t get much worse.
If I ever find it, I’ve made myself a vow to
make my life much simpler, if I just could figure how to!

The Prompt: Good news — another hour has just been added to every 24-hour day (don’t ask us how. We have powers). How do you use those extra sixty minutes?

Post Script: I searched for my passport for 4 or 5 hours yesterday. My housekeeper found it in 5 minutes today–in a place where I’d looked twice!!! She lit a candle and said whenever I lost things I should do the same. She says her friend has a Virgin and Child statue, and whenever she loses anything, she takes the baby out of the mother’s arms and says she’ll return it when she has helped her to find whatever she has lost!! Talk about blackmail in high places! Ha.

Justification

Justification

I spent all day in town today for business and for pleasure,
so by the time I got back home, I felt I’d had full measure
of driving-selling-trying on, shopping-eating-walking;
so I just thought I’d have some time that didn’t include talking.
I put my suit on thinking I would jump right in the pool,
but then the cat began to whine, the dogs commenced to drool—
sure signals it was feeding time—in this they were united.
They’ve learned their human serves their supper faster when invited.

The problem was, the dog food was still up in the car,
so I ran out to get it. (It wasn’t very far.)
I fed the dogs and cat, then found new flea collars I’d bought,
and so, of course, I had to put new collars on the lot.
Then, finally, the pool was mine—aerobic exercise
kept my body busy while a movie wooed my eyes
to disregard the time that passed while bending, kicking, flopping,
for when I am distracted, I am less intent on stopping.

With no prompt to finish early, I just went on and on.
Two hours passed so quickly that the setting of the sun
(and the ending of the movie—I guess I must admit)
finally gave the signal that it was time to quit.
But as I climbed the ladder, something poked my breast—
something sharp and lumpy that had made a little nest
there between my cleavage all my hours in the pool;
and when I drew it out you can’t image what a fool

I felt like, for this faux pas cannot help but win the prize
of all the times that I’ve done stupid things in any guise.
As teacher, daughter, writer, artist, sister, lover, friend,
I’ve committed stupid acts impossible to mend.
But this one takes the cake, I’m sure, as stupidest by far.
I’ve told you how I went to get the pet food from the car,
then fed and put flea collars on protesting dogs and cat.
(I doubt you’d do much better when dealing with all that!)

When I went out to do all this, I didn’t want to lose ‘em.
That’s why my car keys (with remote) wound up within my bosom!


Try as we may, those little indicators of age will sneak up on us.  There is no plastic surgery for a sagging memory!!!  (The Prompt today was:  “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?”)

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Wonder of wonders, when I put the key in the ignition the next morning, it worked!!! Saved on this one!

Dreaming A Path

Dreaming A Path

Dream, Fri. Oct 18, 2013

We were at a booth in a café. It was a huge room with booths on every side and each booth had a clock, or at least I thought they did. I don’t think I ever looked. Our alarm started going off and there was no way to turn it off. It was by me and I tried and tried but couldn’t get it off. I said I was just going to unplug it, but Patti said perhaps it was timed with all the other clocks at tables and then it wouldn’t match. I said couldn’t they just reset it when we left? Someone agreed, but still we didn’t unplug it and it went on and on and on. Very annoying. Our booth came equipped with a little dog. It was tiny and light with long very curly white hair that was in loose corkscrew very long ringlets. It was so adorable and affectionate. I held it most of the time. It had legs like wires that went straight down..very skinny…and it jumped a lot. When the waitress came, we told her about the alarm and she said yes, she’d noticed that it was going off…but she didn’t do anything about it. We told her how cute the little dog was and she said yes…but then it seemed like it was the little dog who had the alarm that was going off. We ordered and afterwards I was wanting a dessert but thought I shouldn’t order one. Patti was to my right and I suddenly realized she was eating a very rich chocolate dessert—a sort of fudge flan or very moist slippery cake that was hot with a hot fudge sauce over it. She offered me a taste. It was a very small rectangle…not very big…but I tasted it and immediately said I’d have one, too. It was incredible. Still, the alarm went off. It was driving me crazy! Then I woke up and realized it was my own bedside alarm. I reached up with my eyes still closed and tried to turn it off, but couldn’t find the control. Finally I picked it up, opened my eyes and found the control. It was 8:10. The alarm had been going off for 10 minutes!!!!

My interpretation:

I found this dream in a folder on my computer. I have no memory at all of having dreamed it, and perhaps that distance makes it easier for me to interpret it. In a few weeks, I turn 67. For the past year, I’ve thought repeatedly about death and the fact that if I’m lucky, I probably have only 30 years left. For some reason, that awareness is very stressful. I feel a need to finish everything I’ve started and never completed. Earlier, that consisted of a lot of sorting, construction of storage spaces and weeding out of the contents of my house. That effort is ongoing. What also happened, however, is that I have an incredible drive to get everything published that has been lying around in file cabinets for many many years as well as a need to write new work and somehow disseminate it. My blog is part of that effort, as are my efforts to get all my books on Amazon and Kindle.

Seeing this dream as if for the first time, I clearly see that theme of time running out coupled by a sense of alarm that I need to do something about it. The little dog shows the attractive quality (adorable and affectionate) of finally dealing with all these loose ends—(note all his corkscrew hairs). Those wiry little legs that kept him always active certainly reflect the urgency I’ve been feeling to write write write.

One aspect of this awareness in my real life for a time consisted of my fear that I will stop breathing. This often gets me up gasping at night to run outside to try to breathe. For some reason I haven’t had any of these panic attacks since I started writing every morning. What I interpreted as a growing fear of death and a dread of ceasing to exist was perhaps a fear of not living and creating while I am alive.

I think the interplay between my sister Patti and me in the dream reflects a number of things. One is a difference in our approaches to life. I think in a way, she is more of a rule-follower and since she was my immediate pattern for most of my earlier life, I think a part of me feels this same need, but this is coupled with an equal and stronger need to create my own path in a direction unique from my two older and very competent sisters and to break a few rules to do so. At a very early age, much as I admired and imitated my sisters, I felt the need to prove myself. To find something to know that they didn’t already know. I found this route when I started venturing out at an early age to find new ground where they had not gone before me. It led me first into the homes of friends and strangers where I saw life being acted out in a manner entirely different from my own home. The road led further—to summer camp where I was a stranger to all and vice versa. I loved being the stranger. In choosing a college, I fell back on the reliability and comfort of attending the same school my sister had attended, but in my Jr. year I took my first big leap—a trip around the world on World Campus Afloat. That early adventure in seeing dozens of new and strange cultures set my life path. I’ve been traveling ever since and have been living in Mexico for the past 13 years.

I believe this dream depicts the sense of urgency I’ve had my entire life to “do” something with experience. My art and writing allow me to turn off the alarm for the hours in which I practice them. That small dessert might symbolize the rewards of doing what I need to do to do so.

P.S. An interesting insight I have had just as I started to post this: (And, interestingly enough, wordpress will not accept my blog entry. Perhaps it is insisting I add this P.S. before it does so.) I just got back to Mexico from a visit to the states wherein I visited my oldest sister Betty who is now in the depths of the world of Alzheimer’s. While I was there, she seemed increasingly distressed by the fact that she can no longer communicate, but one day as we were sitting in the living room portion of her small apartment in a managed care Alzheimer’s wing, she motioned to the middle of the floor and said, “Look a that cute little white thing there—that fluffy little white dog!” This was the first incidence that I know of of her actually hallucinating visually, and for some reason it popped into my mind in relation to the little dog in my dream. All of these images—of our dreams as well as our daily life—remind us to live while we can and to do what is most important to us. In my case as well as my sister’s—to communicate. Too late for her, although she continues to try. Not too late for me.

P.S.S.  By the way, the instant I completed the above P.S., the wordpress page that had continued to not allow me to post this blog entry flashed the message:  What do you want to post?  Text? Picture?  I chose text and and you have just read it.

The prompt: Freudian Flips. Do you remember a recent dream you had? Or an older one that stayed vivid in your mind? Today, you’re your own Freud: Tell us the dream, then interpret it for us! Feel free to be as serious or humorous as you see fit, or to invent a dream if you can’t remember a real one.

Note in response to this prompt: (When I think of dreams, I think of Jung, not Freud, and he continues to influence my thoughts and actions much more than Freud ever did.)