The Gift of Memories – Somerset Studios, November/December 2011

As the decades of my life unfold time seems to accelerate. Pursuits that took prominence in my twenties and thirties don’t have the same relevance. Big dreams…like buying a home, having children or owning art galleries…have come true. Dreams and goals are still my guiding light, but they aren’t screaming with the same urgency. The words of Suze Orman “People first, then money, then things” ring so true…although admittedly “things” and “money” get transposed once in a while. Loving relationships, health, cherished memories and peace of mind are golden to me…happily traded for “things” if given the opportunity.

About seven years ago my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I think the diagnoses rocked me more than it did her. She isn’t computer savvy, so she was spared the fear and hopelessness that arises when one Google’s the word Alzheimer’s. Mom knows her mind isn’t as keen on the passing years, but she doesn’t know parts of her brain are dying. Amazingly, seven years later she is still able to live alone, still recognizes people and she still has impeccable long-term memory. Short term memory evades her.

For now, I can manage her life from afar. Once a month I make the six-hour trip to her house to facilitate her wish to remain in her home. Mom has a great sense of humor about her memory loss. She starts every sentence with, “I probably already asked you this but…” and we both laugh. One day I discovered a delightful diversion from the repetitious barrage of questions. I got out boxes of old family photographs which spurred hours of delightful reminiscing. Now we comb through them every visit. I never bore of the ritual and with mom’s memory loss, every time is the first time for her.

When my mother passes, a large part of our family’s oral history will vanish unless I document it now. When I read the Somerset submission call for gift ideas, the “gift of memories” popped into my mind. I created mixed media art with pictures of my mother for a holiday present. She will love them, and our family will enjoy them for generations to come.

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