April 27, 2010

Memory

Memory


They don't teach you how to watch the slow decline,
the slow unwinding,
the slow decay of a clock that's been turned on,
wound,
and run for sixty,
seventy,
or even eighty years.
It's as if you wake up,
and your body just can't do what it once did.

At the time, you tell yourself,
it doesn't really matter.
You never really wanted to climb that mountain,
run that far,
or reach for the edge like you once thought you did.
Life is more than just exploring possibilities,
its about learning the limits of your own desires.
So you settle into a life that seems .....
settle into a life because it feels...
and now wake up at night wondering
why is my brain doing this?
What if the process
wasn't just watching your body,
adjusting to the slow decay?
What if the watcher couldn't step back and watch anymore?

At my grandmother's last Thanksgiving,
I could barely talk to her.
She'd always been a hard woman,
demanding so much
and making me feel as if every mistake was somehow evidence of my ultimate shortcomings.
I'd watched more of her independence slip away
until she talked in incoherent sentences around a dinner table
as I poured the Pinot Noir into small goblets.
As a small child, she'd terrorized me...
checking the bathroom to make sure I'd lit a match,
had a BM,
was treating my own mother with the respect she deserved.
So it came as no surprise that when she passed,
I couldn't, wouldn't attend the funeral.
I didn't want to remember her fondly.
But now, upon watching my own father fight the slow decay,
the slow unwinding of his own clock
I remember her frailness,
her insistence on doing things her way
as I helped her out of the car,
took her arm as she moved up stairs.
She knew what it was like getting old.

Yet when her mind started playing tricks,
digging through old memories and making her relive them,
I wasn't big enough to show some compassion.
Sometimes the memories you carry
don't go away.
Sometimes the memories you want to forget
push you in ways
that seem hard
relentless,
like some litigator across from a table
is looking after his client
and really has no interest in you.

What happens when your brain decays?
What happens when you are surprised by the key in your pocket
and don't know how it got there?
What happens when the memories start surfacing
and aren't just quaint stories you tell around dinner tables
but become phrases, bits of experience that aren't digested
but come up like a meal that's been eaten
but still holds onto its shape?

Do you rest easy with your brain slowing down?
Do you rest easy with some label,
some disease,
some dysfunction that makes life a perpetual surprise?
Do you even know what resting easy is anymore?

Getting old scares me.
Its not dying,
yet I'm not entirely sure that when you notice its happening,
its really living anymore.
Yet the notion of fighting
what is inevitable isn't exactly pointless,
but doesn't seem entirely brave either.

April 27, 2010

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