Monday, November 11, 2013

Dispatch 14: Fragile Memory

by Lupe Fernandez

"We were watching TV in her house," my mother tells me about one of her sisters, "and then she stood up and said, 'This isn't my house.' What are all my things doing here? Who moved my pictures and my clothes? I want to go home."

My mother's sister storms out of the impostor house.

"Let me go with you," my mother follows her sister out into the dark street. Her sister walks down the sidewalk, stops and looks around. She spots a house down the block with the lights on. "That's my house. What are those people doing in my house?"

My mother doesn't want her sister intruding on someone else's home. "Why don't we wait in the house?" My mother gestures to her sister's house. "We don't know how long those people will be in there. We can wait until they leave."

Her sister reluctantly agrees. My mother and her sister return to the impostor house and sit down to watch TV. After a while, her sister looks around the living room and mutters "Hmmm..." She doesn't mention her stolen house for the rest of the night.

My mother's sister suffered from diabetes complicated by the onset of dementia.

The fragility of memory.

What separates my memories from impostor memories? What is the barrier between the known and a lost world? Three pounds of gray matter surrounded by cranial fluid and encased in a calcium skull. Synapses firing in the soft tissue. Chemical electricity transmitting molecules. That one is my first day of kindergarten. This one is my first kiss. And the bundle of neurons here is the house I live in.

Will the day come when I mistake this house for an impostor house? How thin is the divide between this world and another?

I have a reoccurring dream where I am at college, but I don't know where my next class is. A class project is due, but I can't remember what the project was. I can't even remember what the class was called. I wake up in a panic, believing I've got to get to school fast. Then I remember, I graduated college over two decades ago. I don't have to go to school anymore. For less than thirty seconds, the dream is reality and today is a dream. Is that what it is like to slip into the world of confusion? I am surging with anxiety for less than a minute. What if I am lost in a porous remembrance for days? Years?

What's it like to live in the twilight of today and yesterday? Will I know the difference? Perhaps, I'll be too scared and fight back with hostility and denial.

When I write I immerse myself in the world of the manuscripts. I run across the hot asphalt of Burbank Elementary school. I taste coppery-metallic blood in my mouth after falling out of a Mexican sky. I hear police helicopters prowling the streets of downtown Los Angeles. I feel nausea tumbling "weightless" in a rocket bound for a new planet.

I come back to chair under my butt and a keyboard on my lap when I need to edit. Perhaps one day, I won't return.

Just for today, I remember this blog, this post, this sentence.

22 comments:

  1. This is SO beautifully written and a very moving subject that you've explored here. Wow. I want to read more!

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    1. Thanks, Katherine. So kind of you to read.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe

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  2. just WoW, Lupe. You toook me on ajourney of terror, rembering what it could be like. My whole world is fenced in with my memories. They tell me who I am and sometimes they disappear for a moments. What was that person's name? Where did I live in second grade? What happened there. Right now they usually come surging back, but if they don't, who will I be?

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    1. At least you remembered to read this post.
      Now where did I put my glasses?
      Sincerely,
      Ex-Bruin

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  3. My father was lost to Alzheimers for the last few years of his life. It got progressively worse, as did his physical condition, which finally killed him. Before he left us in body, he left us in mind. We never knew who he'd be when we went to visit. He was a prisoner there, so he couldn't wander off and hurt himself or get lost. He was already lost to us. Thank you for the post, Lupe. Mental health and living in the moment -- it's all life but so very fragile.

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  4. Penelope, I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for reading this post.
    Sincerely,
    Lupe

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  5. I have several friends who lost their spouses to dementia years before dying. I think that must be one of the hardest kinds of grief to bear.

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  6. I agree because it's like you are losing them twice. And it's already so hard to go through the grief once, I can't imagine doing it again, but I have had, like all of us, friends and family that have suffered this fate and it's not an easy road.

    Lupe you so beautifully wrote this. Thank you. Love, Hilde

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    1. Gracias, Senora Hilde.
      Sincerely,
      Senor Lupe

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  7. What a beautiful post. Our memories are our everything--so precious and yet so fragile! A scary subject addressed in a lovely way.
    Brenda Stinnett

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    1. Dear Brenda,
      Thanks for the compliment. Yes, memories are fragile.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe

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  8. I saw my mother go through the stages of dementia and I believe the person dwells inside, what they lose is the ability to express their thoughts, at least in the early stages. In fact, some very old memories flourish when they can't recall what happened five minutes ago. We can't know what goes on deep inside the brains and hearts of those with dementia, but losing the gift of expression makes others feel the person is gone,and, indeed, they are lost to us. That is one of many reasons why it's important for us to write our own personal stories while we still enjoy the ability to express.

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    1. Carol,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe

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  9. Very insightful, Lupe. My father had Alzheimer's and my cousin is now suffering with dementia. It's heartbreaking. The fear of not knowing what's reality . . . of knowing you're forgetting . . . fearing when your life and family won't be remembered.

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    1. Dear Karen,
      I'm sorry to read about your cousin. As a writer, I have to remember for those who forget.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe

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  10. This is a touching post, Lupe. As the daughter of a father who struggled with Alzheimer's, I can certainly relate. Beautifully written, this, and I am glad that I read it. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Nancy,
      You're welcome. I'm grateful that you took the time to read the post and leave a comment.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe

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  11. Lupe, you have beautifully captured the essence of how dreams and reality co-exist in our natures, and what most of us have witnessed and what many of us fear about that time when the two become indistinguishable. Well done. Ilene

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    1. Dear Ilene,
      Thanks for reading the post and writing your generous compliments.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe F.

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  12. Wow! Just wow! You made me cry, Lupe. And imposter house is a perfect description. Judy

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    1. Dear Judy,
      Thanks for reading the post and for the compliments. The reader comments inspired me to write a premise for a YA story. Now all I have do to is write it.
      Sincerely,
      Lupe F.

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