Visiting the Memories

by Ginnie Horst Burkholder

When I give Nelson a haircut or wash his hair in the shower, he cannot keep his head upright. So I am constantly pushing against his forehead to move him into an erect position. Looking at him with his head erect, his back straight, I have flashbacks of the old Nelson. I have been looking at the top of his head for so long that I had forgotten what he once looked like and how handsome he was.

I am trying to consolidate and organize photo albums that have accumulated over the years. There are so many memories.

The first picture I ever had of Nelson was a school picture he gave me. I took it with me to camp where I was a counselor, and the girls in my cabin giggled and squealed over his good looks. My heart beat a little faster each time I looked at it.

I was so full of knowing then. I knew that when we were together everything would be okay. I knew that life could not be better once the miles between Ohio and Michigan no longer separated us. I knew that his chiseled features, easy presence, good humor, and mop of curly hair were tugging at my heart.

I look at the picture now, and the same heart-stirring fondness comes roaring over me with the strength of a locomotive. Only now the engine carries with it carload after carload of loss. The once-articulate storyteller cannot put forth his words. The entertainer now looks to me for a script. The adventurer is on a Lewy body leash. The risk-taker must have a caregiver who is not. The intelligent and adept teacher cannot access information. The cuddler is rigid. Loss tags on to everything.

Looking forward with hope and promise is necessarily a right of the young. Perhaps wading in loss is the passport to maturity and wisdom. Dr. Keith Ablow says, “The longer we try to get distance from the pain the further down the road to nowhere we get.” So I will visit past memories as I can and wade through present loss as I must. It is the path of a caregiver who wants to avoid going nowhere.

© Ginnie Horst Burkholder

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