As a writer I believe in the power of memory. The day I forget the words I write and read, or the faces&cities&conversations I have made into stories, is the day I lose that elusive essence that makes me….me.
As a granddaughter, I believe in the strength of lullabies, the warmth of unconditional love, and the agony of loss. A few years ago, my grandmother forgot the lullaby she used to sing my mother, and then me, to sleep with. Now, she has forgotten us. She knows she loves us. She doesn’t know why. We are strangers.
At work, we are embracing Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We wear pink. I write copy advocating it, selling mammograms and the empowerment of women. It is both fulfilling and inspiring work – especially as a woman. Give me a pink ribbon, and I’ll wear it proud. But the writer and granddaughter in me feels only bitterness.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month – and there will be few who will acknowledge it. I doubt that an international sports team will commit a month of awareness to Alzheimer’s. I doubt that internationally recognized brands will donate resources to sponsoring awareness of Alzheimer’s.
It will be the families like mine, the caregivers like my aunt, who will acknowledge. We will do nothing because we don’t need a month to be aware. We are aware everyday. But the rest of the world won’t do much either. They will think pink for all of October – and good for them. But November will pass colorless and relatively unaware.
See, I still remember. I remember my grandmother’s habit of using cold cream on cuts and bruises. I remember how she used to kiss my friends gently during sleepovers. I remember her making cup after cup of tea for me during exam-week. I remember her never complaining about my strange alarms or when I used to change her TV serials to The O.C. I remember her asking why Ryan Atwood didn’t have a family and why Marissa Cooper wore such short skirts to school.
I remember this summer, when she looked at me affectionately, stroking my hair away from my face. She asked me who I was, and when I told her, she recoiled. She couldn’t possibly have a granddaughter, she said, especially when she didn’t know who my mother was. I’m your granddaughter, and she’s your daughter, I said, pointing at my mother. Ah, she said, looking at both my mother and I with so much love, we could have cried. We didn’t because it would have hurt too much.
I remember that point in time when I stopped talking about her to anyone but immediate family; all of us whom live with a monster lurking in our bodies. One that threatens to overwhelm us with fear, and anger and bitterness that its so unfairunfairunfair.
I remember it all – and I wish that November would be a worldwide color like pink.
“Memories are what warms you up from the inside. But they’re also what tears you apart.” – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.
“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”
―Lisa Genova, Still Alice