Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Photographic Memories

When I was 18 years old I went to Hawaii and I didn’t take a camera.  My best friend and traveling companion thought I was a lunatic and kept asking (as we passed waterfalls, volcanoes and all varieties of tropical splendor), “How can you not take pictures of this?”  I told her that the photos would pale in comparison to the images in my mind. 

I still feel that way.

Last weekend I received one of the greater gifts of my lifetime, the chance to be one of earth’s wingless angels as I floated above the clouds in a silent glider over California’s lush, green Santa Ynez Valley.  Prior to take-off, while I was buckling into a five-point harness in the cockpit, the wonderful man who’d given me this opportunity asked if I wanted to take his camera with me.  Major brownie points were awarded to him for not thinking I was crazy when I declined, because once again, I said that I was certain the pictures could never live up to the imagery I was about to commit to my memory banks. 

I still feel that way.

While I love to look at videos of events past and I’m very happy to glance through photo albums now and again, it still doesn’t compare to the rich, vibrant colors of the experiences I’ve had and have stored in my mind.  Sure, some pictures manage to pull the occasional hidden recollection out of the cobwebs, bringing into focus details I may have forgotten (or completely missed the first time, truth be told), but I don’t get the pleasure out of photos the way some folks do.  It’s unfortunate, I suppose, but I guess I missed that gene in the sequencing of my make-up.

In the 1970’s there was an educational commercial that stated, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” and as one whose brain is a self-described shooting gallery (entertaining and something to see, everywhere you look), I have to agree.

When my mother-in-law died, I was present at her passing and all I could think about was how her memories and stories were leaving with her.  All of the colorful history of her life – scenes of her mother playing poker with the landlord for the rent (when he knew full well going into it he’d lose to her); images of her hat-making, larger-than-life sister who towered over her siblings and carried herself with the grace of a movie star; tales of her Boxing Hall of Fame brother with the Jewish star emblazoned on his trunks – gone.  No photographic evidence… just her reminiscing, based on personal visions of once upon a time.

Family friends recently lost a loved one who waged a well-publicized battle with Alzheimer’s disease.  As they watched this great patriarch gradually recess into the shadows of their shared experiences and memories, it reverberated throughout the entire family, deeply affecting all who knew and loved this man.  His daughter, as primary caregiver, had given every ounce of her being to look after her family during the long, slow loss that is Alzheimer’s.  For her sake, I am grateful that there are photographs to ultimately lift the family’s spirits and bear witness to the memories he left behind.  But, my heart hurts for her knowing that her father’s images of an amazing life well-lived faded long ago.

My wish would be that each of us could walk through our days with the thought of taking mental snapshots of all that means something to us.  Greater still, would be the gift of greeting each day with the desire to create memories worthy of the albums in our minds, then taking time to share those wonderful images with those that mean everything to us.

God gave us memories, that we might have roses in December.  — JM Barrie

For more information, or to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association, please visit www.alz.org

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