Memories erode and fade with time. Like water and wind over the earth, time shapes memories and removes pieces of what once was. Memories change and fade with time and become nothing but blurry pictures of what was.
Marty’s first stroke was seven years ago and slowly, but noticeably, the memories of what was are changing and fading and I’m afraid we are left with what is. I hate it, losing those memories, losing that tenuous hold to what was and I struggle to keep those precious memories of what and who Marty was before the stroke.
Memories of Marty walking, talking, arguing, teaching, and pontificating live and in color are slowly but surely being sacrificed to time and are being replaced by the woman I know today, the miraculous woman irrevocably changed by the strokes.
I want to always be able to picture her in my mind, leaning over the kitchen counter, chin in her right hand, listening intently to the inane story I was telling. I want to be able to remember the sound of her voice as she talks about something equally inane. I don’t want to ever forget the feeling of her standing pressed against me, her arms wrapped around my neck and shoulders, her breathe falling on my neck.
But it’s going away, those visual and tactile memories, replaced by what we are today. I feel powerless to stop the erosion.
Since the strokes I have always worried about people who didn’t know Marty before, how they would never know who she was or what she was. Now, with time, I worry that I will forget. I want to remember, I want those memories, that depth of understanding of who Marty was to stay clear, to stay crisp, to stay fresh, but time is wearing me down; time is making what we were before, stale.
There are so many things I need to remember ---
I want to remember sitting on the front porch of a rented house on 6th street in Lubbock Texas with Marty. It was 3 a.m. and Marty and I had just split a bottle of Montezuma’s Tequila, a particularly noxious but cheap tequila. She had brought the bottle and insisted we share it after coming over the previous weekend and finding me drinking tequila with another female friend (really, just friends). I didn’t know at the time but she was a bit jealous. I remember the night; I remember how cool the concrete porch felt against my cheek when I laid my swimming head to rest on the porch.
I remember when Marty and I jumped into swimming pool, fully clothed one fall night. We were walking home with friends and just happened by the pool at a random apartment building. We looked at each other and without saying a word jumped in the pool, fully clothed. It was cold, we were wet and we walked home, we were starting to really become one.
I remember sitting on a worn out rickety bridge in an old burned out ghost town of a tourist stop outside of Lubbock called Rimfire Village. We sat there one Sunday evening with a friend and watched the sun disappear as storm clouds pierced with lightening rolled across the vast open expanse of the west Texas prairie. It’s not as clear as it was, but the memory of sitting with this young woman I was starting to love still affects me today.
I remember meeting Marty’s father for the first time with her holding my moist hand to reassure me. I remember going to parties, talking at dinner, having babies, moving, new jobs, old jobs, new arguments and old loves. It’s all there, our whole life together before the strokes, but the time, the age, the pressure of life between then and now has started to cloud important details.
I want to remember her old laugh that’s deep and rich and not cut off because of the strokes, her smile that’s not crooked from the brain damage, her sharp wit and humor that hasn’t been dulled by the disease, her walk that hasn’t been eliminated by the paralysis, the independence that hasn’t been swept away, the arguments, the embraces, the kisses, the smells, the confidence she could give me with her words and her smile. I want to remember and embrace all of those things that made her uniquely Marty, that made us who we are.
I don’t want those memories to go away or to be compromised, and they are. I can’t remember them well enough, the memories aren’t sharp they are faded and ragged, the seven years since the stroke are slowly taking them away and it scares me.
Marty is still here, she is still with us, I still love her very much, and she is still the most amazing woman I know. The strokes have created a very different person. While I honor who Marty is today, I mourn the loss of who she was and I don’t want to ever forget who and what she was to me and to others. Seven years doesn’t seem that long ago, but it is time and time takes away.
I want to remember.