Smile, You Are in Someone’s Memoir

Life is a series of billions of snapshots, many of which are pictures of you, doing millions of things, even smiling, talking, eating, walking, and many of them are bits of memory matter in the memoires of the people you touch. Just when you are convinced that nobody sees you, that nobody is paying attention, that you are invisible to the world, someone recalls a memory of you that you were unaware you were making.

Today after church, I had the opportunity to greet the pastor who served there many years ago. I remember him fondly. I recall one particular Christmas Eve, when after the service, as we were waiting for something or other, and this pastor had finished saying goodnight to everybody, he walked over to me and gave me a hug. We hadn’t been talking. I hadn’t expressed a need for a hug, but he must have SEEN SADNESS IN MY FACE, AND JUST briefly FOLDED HIS ARMS AROUND ME. That was it. That was my snapshot of a memory of him.

He probably does not remember that moment at all. What he does remember about me is the sound of my first Seeing Eye ® dog, Mindy, as she settled under the pew, and her collar chinked on the tile floor. Not only did he reminisce about that, but he also remembered her name. I was completely unaware of that little tinkling sound that signaled, to everyone but me, that my dog had lain down and had rested her beautiful golden head on the cool tile floor.

What I learned today was that no matter how insignificant you think you are, or, for that matter, how important you think you are, there will be snapshots clicking from any number of memory cameras, When you least expect it. It could be a gesture, an expression, or even an action that has nothing to do with anyone else, that could be recorded and brought out later to remind that person of you.

remember that old show, Candid Camera? And the catch phrase that everybody went around saying, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera?” Aside from iPhones capturing every little movement, significant or not, there are memory shots that as of today, I vow to try to make ones that I will not be embarrassed about when they become a reminiscence of me. Can I never frown? Never say a harsh word? Never be impatient with someone? No. I can only hope that those memories will be immediately deleted to make room for the ones that will bring a smile, like the image of a guide dog sleeping in church. .

Music, The Best Medicine

My mother sits in a wheelchair, propped up with cushions and blankets. What used to be a smiling face is devoid of emotion or recognition of her surroundings. I have come for a brief visit, long enough to hold her hand and tell her I love her. Maybe I would say a few other things, but I wouldn’t expect a response or any kind of interaction, because she is now unable to communicate. Because I can’t see her face or read her expression, I know it’s not going to be an easy visit. Then the music therapist arrives with her portable keyboard, and relief washes over me like a summer rain. The last time she visited my mother, Mom could interact to some degree. She even poked around a little on the keyboard, and the music therapist played the melody along with Mom and graciously called it a duet. Mother beamed with the pleasure of being in the company of another musician, someone who spoke her language. She was the happiest I had seen her in months. But not so, this day. The therapist unpacks her keyboard and sets it up so she can see the music and Mother’s face at the same time. She plays the first song and sings with her lovely melodic voice. No reaction. Undaunted, she sings another, and I try to sing along, but almost immediately, I choke up, because music has that effect on me when I am consumed with grief or joy. My heart aches, because Mother can’t play the piano anymore or sing or even hum along. Seeing that Mother needs a little more encouragement to be engaged, the therapist suggests I sit closer and hold Mother’s hands. Somehow, during the next song, I tell myself to pull myself together and sing to Mom. She can’t sing, so I’ll have to sing for both of us. I request a song that I know Mom likes and that I know the words to, “Ain’t She Sweet.” It’s an old standard, and it’s a little peppier. I belt it out for all I’m worth, and I’m praying that I’m getting through. Then we end with a few hymns. One of Mom’s favorites, and mine too, is “In the Garden,” but I only know the first verse. But I do know a little harmony for that one, so the therapist continues to play the second verse. Hearing that I don’t know the words, she feeds them to me before each line, so it sounds like I know the whole song. I’d never sung all the verses, and I have to tell you that the experience was at least as healing for me as for my mother, if not more.

Music is the expression of our hearts and souls. It is an international and Omni generational language. We sing lullabies to our babies; we sing camp songs around the fire; we sing love songs as we snuggle on the dance floor; we sing the blues; we sing patriotic songs to express our gratitude to our soldiers and veterans; and we sing hymns to our weary parents. Even though my mother doesn’t make a sound, I know that in her mind, she is singing with me. She and I have just spent an hour together in a more intimate way than we ever could with words. Her love of music is one of her legacies to me.

It’s a legacy I cherish and hope to pass along.

Goldylocks Goes on a Bike Ride

When you shop for furniture, do you go for comfort or style? Function or fun? I haven’t shopped for furniture in 15 years. My daughter Kara was enlisted for the task of driving me from store to store to store to find a sleeper sofa for my family room. It had to not only be comfy, but not so deep that I couldn’t touch the floor with my feet when not reclining. This doesn’t sound like a hard thing to find, unless you’re 5: 2’. That’s the height I was back then. Now, 15 years later, I’ve decided to update my living room. It all started when Cisco, my previous guide dog,

Munched on the couch cushions. I was going to wait until I was sure Dora wasn’t going to be destructive, but as I looked around the room, I realized that everything in it was about 30 years old. It was high time to bite the bullet and go shopping. So far, I’ve been to 9 stores, counting second trips to some of them, with 3 different willing and helpful friends. It’s amusing to me that when I settle on one sofa that my shopping partner likes and that seems reasonably comfortable, and then I drag another helper back to that store, the couch I liked before is awful. I find myself saying, “What did I see in this couch?” Then 1 helper likes a solid color and another one likes a print. A friend said today, “When I see something I like, I just go with that. I don’t worry about what fashion dictates.” I don’t have that luxury. I do have the luxury of having kind friends. I can only go on what fits my short little body. I’m a little woman with a little room in a little house. I find myself plopping into chair after chair, sofa after sofa, like a grownup Goldilocks. Only none of them is too big, and only 1 couch and 1 recliner are just right—I think. I need to recruit yet another helper to go back to that last store and be certain I’ve made the right decision. It’s a huge investment for me, considering the whole room is getting a make-over. I’m hoping this will be a tangible step in giving my life a makeover.

Yesterday, I got a vacation from the stress of dealing with the decline of my mother’s health and the pending enormous purchases, by going for a bike ride with 5 of my favorite cycling buddies from my bike club. It was a glorious summer day, with sunshine, light breezes, and low humidity. I mean they don’t come any nicer than that. And the way I like to spend a day like that is on the back of a tandem bike. I just pedaled all my cares away as we traveled over back roads to a little town with a popular lunch stop for locals and fellow cyclists. With helmet hair and sun screened faces, we enjoyed our lunch outside. I can’t remember a day I’ve been happier. Maybe it was the contrast; maybe it was the fabulous weather; maybe it was the great exercise; maybe it was that I had no back pain; or maybe it was being with friends my age. They all have life issues, just like me, but we left them behind for a few hours. It was good to sit on a bike seat and let Goldilocks continue my search for the perfect sofa another day.