top of page

Memory Loss

by Hannah Ellis

          I sat on the bench, my legs touching the ground. They hadn’t been able to do that for very long. My mint chocolate chip ice cream--in a cup, not a cone--was better than anything we had at home. It was an unusually sunny summer day, and everybody was out enjoying the warmth. People strolled around the town square with their bikes and their children and their shopping bags. The fountain gurgled behind us. There were no cars or buses on the cobblestone streets, and we had parked our motorcycle on the edge of the driving zone. It was a perfect day, a special day, just for me and my grandpa. My Bedstefar. He had ice cream, too--in a cup, not a cone--and he kept asking if I wanted another bite. The answer was always yes. I had a sweet tooth.  

          He was balding and wore glasses, and his hands were calloused from his years of hard labor. He was very gentle and patient. My mom says he wasn’t always like that. I wouldn’t have known, as I was young, and only got to see him every few years. But as we walked around the toy shop, he looked at every toy with me. We spent time discussing the merit of each animal figurine, debating the necessity of the fairies with their unicorns, and went back and forth over whether I really needed another puzzle to do with my grandma. I don’t remember what I chose. He doesn’t either. It didn’t matter then. He was excited to buy it for me.  

          I don’t think he remembers any of this day. I don’t think he remembers the people watching, the toy shop, the ice cream, the window shopping. I don’t think he remembers the motorcycle ride, or the care with which he checked my helmet, or the warm wind rushing against our skin while I yelled in a mixture of fear and excitement. I don’t think he remembers me, the granddaughter he hasn’t seen in almost six years. As for me, I didn’t realize the importance of this day. I didn’t know then that it was something shining  and golden  and precious to keep close. I didn’t know that my own memory loss would try to take it away from me, and that if I wanted to keep it, I would have to hang on tight.  

          My Bedstefar isn’t gone yet, but the line is getting blurrier and blurrier. How much of a person is left when they are losing their memory? When they succumb to Alzheimers and dementia, when they forget their friends, their grandchildren, and their children, and when they lose their sense of reason and constraint, how much of the individual remains? Death isn’t the only way to lose a loved one. For my grandfather, the best way to keep him is to remember. And as for me, I’m lucky. I get to remember a day that I had him all to myself. A day that was warm and bright when it had rained every other day that week. A day when he knew what he was doing and where he wanted to go, and kept that determination the whole time through. A day when he was still himself. It was mundane, it was small, and it was the most precious gift he could have given me. A memory.

bottom of page