Saturday, April 28, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
When asked what he had for breakfast that morning? He couldn't remember. When asked what building he was in? He couldn't remember. When asked who the current president is? He couldn't remember. When asked to draw a clock on a piece of paper? He couldn't remember. When asked the date and year? He couldn't remember.
What he did want to talk about, and what was so fresh (like it was yesterday) to him was the Holocaust! He remembered clearly and concisely dates, years, names, where, when, why and who. The more I heard, the faster I typed. I wanted to get to the end of this story as quickly as possible, NOT because it was boring but because I wanted to know more, more, more. This is what he remembers in 2012, the Holocaust for he and his family:
First, he is a 91 almost 92-year-old gentleman. He remembers in the 1930s being taken in the night, him, his father, his mother, and his three sisters. He was separated immediately from his father, though he went to the same camp where his mother and sisters were. He remembers being so hungry but instead giving his bread to his sisters and mother, though his mother always split hers in half with him. He remembers the beatings, the crying, the screams, not just for himself but the pain of watching his mother and sisters become so frail and fragile. He remembers the day his mother and his three sisters were murdered, all at the same time. He had heard that his father had survived, though through many attempts, he never found his father. He was an orphan who moved to the United States and his first job was a tailor. He loved it so much because he remembered his mother could sew and make so many beautiful things, he eventually opened his own dry cleaning/tailoring business, until his unfortunate diagnosis of Parkinson's disease when he could no longer do what he loved.
Of course his daughter later tells us all the wonderful successes in his life including his marriage to her mother for 51 years, his successful business that he built with his own two hands, the children he raised and sent to college, the grandchildren's births, birthday parties, anniversary parties, and so on and so on.
As I said earlier, my mom and him share the same disease, same symptoms; but, it wasn't before now that I realized my mom had a very happy place to go to in her long-term memory. I used to say, "wherever her mind is, it must be a happy place," because for the most part it was always playful and very childlike innocence where she was. She could remember 1945 like it was yesterday, but she too couldn't draw that clock or remember the current president or sometimes even recognize me for a minute or two.
My patient too could remember 1930 like it was yesterday, but quite oviously his wasn't such a happy place, and in fact, the saddest part of his life is all he has to remember, it's all that has left in his memory bank. Not his children being born, not remembering that he even has grandchildren, or even his own success.
Two people, my mom and him, with the same disease and same disease process but such different childhood memories...
I hope you will think of him when you remember your mom or your dad, and remember that we should never take for granted the sacrifices a parent will make for their children and, in return, the sacrifice that we should always make for them...