I wrote last month about my Dad who has Alzheimers. The picture of him here is on his wedding day to my mother, July 4, 1953. That’s right, they married on independence day, a fact they always joked about. Dad was in the army, the Korean War was on, and leaves were brief. They got married at home, my mother in a dress she got at Filene’s Basement for $5.
Although my dad (and his dad, his brother, my brother, and all my uncles) served our country in the military, that’s not what this Memorial Day post is about. Rather, it’s about the central role that memory plays in defining who we are, how we feel, and how we experience the world. As Alzheimers and other forms of dementia progress, the affected person lives increasingly in the moment. We’ve all heard that being in the moment is a good thing – to fully concentrate on what we’re saying, reading, eating, or doing is to bring our full selves to the task and thereby do a better job or derive more enjoyment from our lives.
The problem with dementia, though, is that the disappearance of memory means there is increasingly less context for that enjoyment. The picture above shows my Dad on what was no doubt one of the happiest days of his life. He loved my mother with a passion for 61 years until she died on November 24, 2010. Eighteen months later, he has only a vague recollection that he used to be married. I hope that during this day of remembering those who served, you’ll join me in remembering those who can no longer remember.