I don’t know who comes up with all these silly national holidays, but when I saw on my calendar that today is I Forgot Day I laughed to myself. In our house, every day is I Forgot Day.
My brother Bob and I had lived hours apart from each other for years. We talked on the phone every week and got together a few times a year. Three years ago, our phone conversations became strained. He was no longer interested in my updates, didn’t recognize the names of people I had been talking about for years and insisted that he had never heard stories I had told him the week before.
I decided to investigate and booked a week’s trip to visit Bob. When I got there, I quickly realized that dementia was starting to set in. I extended my trip for a few weeks, packed up and sold his house and moved Bob into our spare room.
Over the past three years, Bob has gotten more forgetful. When people come to visit, we quietly tell him who they are and what he needs to know about them. We have no expectations and are always thrilled when he does remember something. He tells us the same stories of his childhood over and over, and we laugh at the same point each time.
Bob has taught us some valuable lessons, like how important it is to look at familiar things with fresh eyes. When we park in the driveway and Bob comments on how pretty our garden is and how big our house is, I remember to appreciate the material blessings I have received. And when he points out that my husband is great with kids, I reflect on what a wonderful husband, father and grandfather he has turned out to be.
We’ve learned to live in the moment and appreciate the small things. We’ve learned that, while it’s great to plan in advance, it’s also OK to change your plans and make decisions at the last minute. We’ve learned that memory is a precious thing, but that life can be enjoyed even when our memories start to fade. Most of all, we have learned that love is limitless, that we can go beyond what we thought possible to make Bob comfortable and happy, and that, at the end of the day, family is more important than all the memories in the world.