Pam Frampton: Kaleidoscope — fragments of memory


Published on November 23, 2016

Dementia

“If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.”
— Khalil Gibran

She still has her memories, but she can’t count on them being there whenever she would like.
She can’t pick and choose or summon them at will. It’s not like a drawer you pull out and they’re all there in neatly ordered rows like rolled-up socks.
Some days, they are slippery and elusive, like small silvery fish in a bowl.

Pam Frampton

And trying to recall scenes and events and the order of things is like peering through a kaleidoscope.

Sometimes the fragmented images click into place and are synchronized, and a discernible, pleasing pattern emerges. A memory gels and crystallizes. Remember when so-and-so’s horse ate the buttons off the girls’ plaid skirts hanging on the clothesline?

Remember when your brother acted out at the Christmas concert, holding his giltter-and-spangle letter “C,” bored now that his little piece was said and done (“C is for Christmas…”), a little imp squirming and grinning on stage and distracting the parents straining to hear the “H” and “R” and “I” and “S” and “T”… What a hard case! But everyone laughed.

Remember coming home from church one night and hearing the strange noises and finding the black puppies mewling and climbing all over their mother and each other in the empty Eversweet carton in the spare bedroom, brought home from a neighbour’s house…

But sometimes the kaleidoscope tube turns and the picture stays fractured, coloured bits and pieces set at sharp disjointed angles that you can’t make any sort of story from.

You can try again for a sharper image, but there’s no guarantee.

And sometimes, pictures come unbidden to your mind, and feelings, too — sad things, pangs of loss, wisps of dark memory like dusty clinging cobwebs, or great gaping cavernous black holes of absence that you risk falling into if you get too close to the edge.

A husband gone, the pain so raw.

A husband gone; gone now so long.

Which is it? The time goes, but you’re not always sure where and you can’t find a reliable measure. Things are muddlesome edging on murky; troublesome. Marking days and dates seems meaningless when things are always the same and yet never the same in a strange kind of unsettling monotony. Every day, a grey day dawns and yawns in front of you. Clock hands seem to move and stop at random, faster then slower, and nightfall arrives without warning.

Things end up in places and states you can’t fathom; rumpled newspaper pages stuffed between couch cushions, hair rollers under the furniture, “admit one” ticket stubs in your purse for events you don’t recall attending. A clutch of coloured pencils with broken tips.

The remote control is missing. Glasses. Purse. Keys. The phone is discovered off the hook.

But familiar faces are reassuring, even if they don’t always come with names and associations attached on a clearly printed label.

“I know I’ve met you before — you are a nice lady,” you say to a family acquaintance, reaching out, smiling, to take her hand between your own soft, warm palms.

Or, “I’m sorry I don’t remember your name, but I know you’re my friend.”

For today, it is enough.

Your sweet and gentle nature is touching and enduring.

And the Scrabble tiles still make sense; they are a constant, with cups of tea, the gentle reassuring clicks as you pluck them from the drawstring bag and slide them onto their little wooden pew, nimbly assembling the letters to make a word, totting up the score in the same old way.

“The Q is not out but the four Us are gone,” you say.

It’s true. But for now, you are still you and I am me, and we are here together.

Pam Frampton is an editor and columnist at The Telegram. Email  pframpton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton