Yesterday, Natalie, Steve and I visited Steve’s parents in the Memory Care Unit at their home. For them, it was a good day. Mom was calm. Dad was in good spirits. Aunt Joan was having a bad day, very agitated and almost catatonic. Such is life in a memory care unit. You never know what you’re going to find.
As we sat and visited with Mom and Dad, drinking milk shakes Steve and Natalie had picked up on the way, a variety of other residents stopped by to chat, to ask for help, to question. To simply interact. Their turmoil is relived daily in one form or another, a visit to a time when they waited and searched for familiar faces, a time never ending for those without visitors or without the visitors for whom they search.
Janet, Ben Franklin (Carol), Sandy, Sunny, they all have stories, lives lived, hidden memories too deep to remember. And they are us, each of us, with the same need, the same urgency, the same dreams, the same quest to be remembered. This is perhaps the saddest part of Alzheimer’s – the need not to remember, but to be remembered.
Sandy, with her quavering voice, her searching eyes, came to our table and asked if we’d seen her Mike, a kind man, a wonderful man so she said. We hadn’t. But she continued, and she touched my shoulder and I held her hand, as she told me that she loved me, that she always had. Whoever it was she was seeking, it was me at that moment. And, finally, she pleaded with me, “don’t forget me.” And this is the plea of all of us, the plea that never really leaves us, even as our memories slip away.