My dad asked me to drive him to a funeral. It was the funeral of the wife of a college friend, who had reached out to him right after my mom had died. They had the connection of college and losing their wives the same year.
The privilege of tagging along was to hear the reflection and wisdom of two 92-year-olds. Wayne saw dad in the lunch line and came over to greet him. After a hug, they began talking about memories. Wayne said something that impacted me. He said there are three kinds of memories: those you remember; memories that are triggered by something; and memories you know that happened, but you don’t remember.
Memories are different for everyone. A friend, who had played briefly in the NFL, could walk through plays from college or the pros like they had just happened. Or a friend who seems to recall every name and event from our college years. For some reason, I have a pretty full memory of my childhood and life.
Memories that are triggered are those things that happen when you connect with a friend or return to a certain place or smell a certain smell. Situations activate memories. These are fun because it’s names and events that come out after being tucked away, sometimes for many years.
The example Wayne gave of the third category was, he had recently read something that he had written down. Shortly after Wayne was married, he and his new bride, June, stopped by the farm to see my dad. When you show up on a farm during harvest, you’re put to work. My grandpa brought the newlywed and my dad out to the field to shock grain. It was a triggered memory for my dad, it jump-started details of their visit. It was a memory that Wayne knew had happened, but he had no recall of the events. Category 3 Memories.
Watching my mom and my wife’s mom walk through the journey of dementia gives you a deep appreciation for memories. To see them fade and extinguish is hard, but it also makes you cherish the memories that remain.
Create some memories this week.
Then go through some pictures or something you’ve written or been involved with in the past. Trigger memories and reach out to those with whom you share past memories. It will trigger memories for you both.
Just know we also have Category 3 Memories, stuff that’s happened that we will not be able to recall. But someone was and is impacted by your life.
My daughter gave me a memory trigger kit for Christmas. It’s to share different memories and help the kids know us better. It’s a great thing for both of us, and grateful for the gift of recall.
I’ve also seen “interview” questions for parents and grandparents to keep memories and history alive. Thanks Rebecca.