Thankful for my mind

Smelling of pipe tobacco...

I would like to paint a picture for you. A beautiful life. Great love, children, and fulfilling career executed with absolute knowledge and expertise. You are able to reminisce with high school friends, the exact clothes Mr. Such-and-such wore while smelling of pipe tobacco and talking to girls' chests instead of their faces. You remember your first kiss, adolescent fumbles and every argument with your first boyfriend. Broken hearts, choices of all kinds, college. Your favorite song mimicked perfectly, every pause seamless. The computer system at your first job, passcodes for things you haven't accessed in years. Your first cell phone ringtone. All of this perfectly shapes your history to this moment. Every experience a puzzle piece that makes you- YOU. 

Delicious moments I would love to experience again...

Some memories we would rather forget. I know there are several humiliations that I could go without vivid and detailed recollection. The other day my daughter and I were shopping, and she asked me if I ever wished I could revisit a memory- if I ever thought about it. Of course I have. There are delicious moments I would love to experience again. Whether it be hilarious antics raving in the mountains, cheering my first homecoming game, or epic first kisses. Heck yes! Memories can be both a gift and a curse for some. I have many patients that would like to forget their parents methods of punishment, divorce history, or wartime. If you could erase the bad, would you? There are times, like most people- I have been hurt or betrayed so horribly that the option of erasing my memory would seem like an entirely viable option. Something happened to change my mind.

Eternal sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004. This movie is a beautiful depiction of the excruciating loss of sacred memory.

When you lose your mind, you lose everything...

When I started working in hospice, the learning curve was steep. I had never been a fan of anatomy and physiology classes in college. I simply endured them to reach the projected goal- get it over with! In application, with real life humans, I found that the systems of the body were illustrated for me with perfect understanding. You see, when you witness all the things that can go wrong, you start understanding how they should have worked in the first place. I guess this was backwards learning for me, yet unforgettable. When your nerves don't work, you eventually lose your ability to tell your diaphragm to breathe. When your liver doesn't work, you get confused (sometimes mean) as the toxins fill up your body and eventually become unconscious before passing away. When you lose your mind, you lose everything

Always wandering...

One of the jobs I had as a hospice social worker was to be a companion to dementia patients. I spent countless hours in locked memory units, reading to non-verbal grandmas, listening to stories told as Joe was certain it was 1945, and he was a traveling salesman. I got accustomed to nonsense and welcomed the time machine. While many were labeled "pleasantly confused," others were terrified. In her 90's, wandering the halls in desperate search of her mother because dinner would be ready soon, and mama might get mad. Others had their nightmares take flight, reliving horrible incidents over and over. "The kitchen is on fire! Get the baby!" While others still, would babble rhyming words and numbers, stealing their neighbors shoes, wandering with their walker. Always wandering. At times, I would be honored to talk to their families. The ones that could tell me who they were before all of this. He built that old church downtown. She was a grandmother to 45 children. He fought in WWII and his girlfriend was killed at Pearl Harbor. He never got over it. These little snippets of life taught me a great lesson. Every memory is precious. Every. Single. One.

The smell of hot bacon dressing...

I spent years observing the subtle losses associated with cognitive decline. Forgetting simple words. Toothbrush, book, coffee. Brilliant minds withering with intermittent understanding that they are powerless to stop time. The worst is knowing that they aren't what they had been- before. When they remembered their daughter's name, face, her smile. When they could recite with great ease, the speech they made in 6th grade on the constitution. Dementia is a Great Thief. I'm thankful for my mind. While I may always be challenged to remember a new name, or why I walked into the kitchen half drowsy at bedtime, I am sound. I can remember the first time I saw the movie "Annie" in the theater, and the five times that followed. I remember the smell of hot bacon dressing boiling in the kitchen of the Sandpiper restaurant I worked at in the 90's. The way I felt after my first cigarette, and my last. What a gift this is. We can easily find gratitude in things like friendship, a close parking spot, or a stunning sunset. How often do we pause to savor the gifts we take for granted? Our mind is so special. The good and the bad, so beautifully ours, to keep. What are you thankful for? Happy Gratitude Tuesday.

AM