A while ago, we sold our family home. We bought it nearly thirty years earlier when our children were young. Our oldest of four children was ten years old when we moved there, and our youngest daughter was born shortly thereafter.
The morning of the closing, I walked through the empty house. All the furniture had been removed. I paused at the laundry room wall where there were once pencil marks measuring our children’s growth. Though painted over I could still imagine the lines rising higher each year they grew.
Walking into the living room I looked across the emptiness toward the fireplace. The mantle was bare, but I could visualize the Christmas greens and red candles. Young children excitedly roasted hot dogs over the fire while the smell of chili wafted from the kitchen. I don’t know how the tradition started, but we repeated that meal every Christmas eve.
Passing through the dining room I remembered Thanksgiving dinners with turkey, mashed potatoes, and noodles. The children noisily passed food and filled their plates while my mother and father watched proudly. I carved the turkey as my wife brought browned rolls from the oven.
Wandering down the hall I looked in each bedroom as my memories pulled me back in time. I remembered when my two teenage sons playing Nerf basketball poked a hole through their bedroom wall. I could barely see the spot in the repaired drywall.
Then I noticed the telephone jack in my oldest daughter’s room. As a teenager we gave her a phone of her own. Now out dated technology, she was thrilled at the time. Reflecting, she rarely left her room for the next several years.
Halting at one room, I remembered when it was a nursery. Teddy bear wallpaper once adorned the walls, and a pink and white canopy decorated the white crib. All evidence of the past was erased by the beige paint.
Completing my tour, I entered the master bedroom appreciating the hardwood floor which I had sanded and varnished a few years earlier. I remembered the nights wide-eyed children were afraid of the storm and piled into our bed for safety. Once I led them all to the basement when an especially strong gale removed the top of our tall maple tree. Limbs all over town were knocked down, and we were out of power for several days. In their young eyes their father could protect them from the driving rain and mighty rushing wind.
Those were such good recollections, and I’m so pleased I have them. It saddens me when I realize my mother no longer remembers the past. Like a photo album destroyed in a house fire, it is gone forever. She only has a short-term memory, and within a few minutes it disappears, too.
Some dementia patients remember only events from long-ago ago. Some even regress and live in those days of their past. My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s Disease and each year she thought she was younger. She eventually believed she was a child in grade school and needed to go home because her parents were worried. She had no recollection of her eight children.
Imagine how sad you would feel if you were losing the memories of your children. It is no wonder depression is common with those who begin to suffer dementia. For a while their memories may be stirred with photo albums and conversations about the past. But in most cases the memories will slowly be erased. Thank God their children can provide the protection they once offered to them.
Psalm 127:3-4 NASB
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
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