Friday, March 7, 2008


"The heart, like the mind, has a memory. And in it are kept the most precious keepsakes."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From all I've been reading about middle-aged memory loss, it's apparently not a big deal. It's not uncommon. And, even though Iworry that forgetting where I put my keys is an indication that I am on the fast train to full-blown dementia, researchers are proving this is not the case. "Even in the 65-and-older age group, only 15% of people suffering from mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease." *

We boomers, who have long since passed our babyhood, are overstressed, don't always get enough exercise, and eat foods that are not good for our mental or physical muscles. Many of us our sandwiched between caring for (once a mother always a mother) our children and/or grandchildren who once flew the coop but now, for whatever reason, think there's no place like Grandma's, and our parents who can no longer care for themselves the way they once cared for us. Women in this age group must add the triumvirate bouquet garni of hormone deprivation, mood swings and temperature changes to the memory loss soup.

This stage of my life is just another one that I must muddle through because my mom is no longer here to guide me through the aging minefield. When I was 13 and started my period, I was in Vermont, my mother was in Florida. Now I'm 55, wondering if hot flashes ever end and mom is in a shrink-wrapped box on my Dad's closet shelf.
And that's one of the things that causes me great concern about not remembering things; the fact that the people I once loved so dearly are becoming an unfocused blur in my mind's eye. It's not that I can't see, i.e. remember them, it's that I can't see them clearly. I remember significant events, but I can't conjure up the memory of what they smelled like, or how it felt to touch them or how it sounded when they laughed. I'm afraid that what's blurry now, will one day not be there at all. Like the detailed stories that Johnson tells of living in San Diego, will I someday have no recollection of who these people are?
I don't really think this is what happens, but I still get fearful. Dad told me recently it's his memories that transport him to a particular place in time. He can look at the picture on his wall of the trees lining his beloved Smokey Mountains all decked out in their autumnal splendor, and actually feel like he's there, smelling the Fall air, and hearing the crunch of dried leaves under his feet. I can only imagine what he remembers when he looks at the picture of his bride or his mother or his brother.

I have pictures, too. I rely on those pictures to fill in the blank spots. On any given occasion, I can look at a picture and rejoice in the memory of good times shared, or cry with the pain of a loss that still feels too great to bear. I've been assured that one day, with the gift of time, that the pain will fade like the memory of a person's touch. I know that to be true except for the times, when I least expect them, when a song, or a photo can jog my memory so hard that the scars on my heart feel like they may come undone.

I don't want to expose others to that kind of sadness. But for today, the anniversary of Zubin's leaving us, I want to make a list of reasons why I loved him so much. My hope is that by doing so, I'll be able to remember the smile I believe he saved for me alone. The one that he wore on those rare occasions when I was with him just after he'd taken his sleeping medication. In those moments when he was in his own personal twilight zone and allowed me to join him on his journey to nighttime oblivion. His eyes were kind of distant, yet they still sparkled. His words were a little confusing, yet they were chosen with great care. His smile was a little crooked, yet it lit up his face and my heart at the same time.
I remember:
1. The first time I met Zubin and the discussion we had about the movie "Dirty Dancing" that caused Wendy to re-think ever bringing that young man (or any young man) home to me her mother.**
2. Zubin's story of stealing a batman poster. This kid was just not cut out to be a thief. Which, in the long run, proved to be a good thing.
3. Hearing about the BB-gun fight years after the drama was over.
4. W&Z's tradition of calling each other on New Year's Eve even when they were dating other people.
5. Zubin using the "F" word in front of me to see how I would react!
6. Watching Zub and his family play hearts.
7. Hearing Zub's stories about his brother.
8. Meeting Jay and Zori for the first time.
9. The Hindu wedding ceremony.
10. Watching Zub as he lay tilted back in his wheel chair to take the pressure of his butt. He looked like he was asleep, but in reality I think he was in a secret place where only he could go.
11. Watching Zub use the computer.
12. Seeing W&Z lying under a stack of quilts and magazines.
13. Seeing and rejoicing in the way Zubin loved Wendy, and vice versa.
14. Zubin's hats
15. Zub's birkenstock shoes
16. Loving Zub's family
17. Zubin getting overheated and watching Wendy cool him off by soaking a sock in cold water and gently laying it across his forehead.
18. Going to B movies
19. Sharing holidays with the Mehtas
20. Listening to him tease his mother and the way they laughed
21. Drinking Emily's tea
22. Zubin's art: drawings, photos, writings
23. 100 roses
24. Watching W&Z play the hand they were dealt
25. I especially think of Zubin every time I hear the song, "How Great Thou Art". Not because he was religious or sang gospel music. But because there is a line in the song that says, "I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder" and it always ... ALWAYS ... reminds me of Zub's "rolling thunder" term of endearment for Wendy.

If it didn't sound so selfish*** I'd offer to cut off my right arm or leg to have Zub back for awhile. Yet, I realize that even as much as I miss him, there are other people who's missing him quotient is far greater than mine. I wonder how they bear it. The answer has to lie somewhere in the knowledge that in that place where Zubin is now, he knows no boundaries, limits or restrictions. His soul is free. And when he tells a story that makes the other angels smile, the sunshines down on all of us with a great big Zubin smile.
I miss you, Zub.
Merry ME

** I don't know if I believe in ghosts but I do think that spirits hang around even after they are gone and if we pay real close attention they will tap us on the shoulder and remind us of their presence. I don't think it was coincidence that tonight when I flipped through the movie channels I happened upon Patrick Swazey and Jennifer Gray practicing the Mambo. Talk about timing, sense of humor, and proof that Zub is never too far away.

*** Ironically, the last conversation I had with Zub was about being selfish. Maybe my neurons and synapses don't work as well as they once did, but obviously information is still stored there and comes tumbling out when needed.

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