Thursday, December 02, 2004

I remember my grandfather as a brilliant engineer who used to watch debates on CNN and C-SPAN while we kids roamed around the house. Though generally slow to speak, he surprised us time and again with quick, witty barbs. As years racked up and passed him by, however, my grandfather slowly fell to the dimming effects of Parkinson's disease. His quick wit came off the shelf less and less until his hibernating lucidity pinned it forever to the far back corner of the shelf. In the end the disease sapped him of all energy, mental or otherwise until he could hardly recognize us, much less summon quick anecdotes.

I can hardly measure which left a greater pang, seeing the gears in his head grinding away only to stop stubbornly on the tip of his tongue or the altogether vacuous expression of an ever-ebbing memory. So often I looked into his eyes to be met with an impish glint of mischief. Over the years that sparkle morphed into something else. Instead of dimming, like one might automatically assume, the light in his eyes seemed to diffuse from a glint to a gleam to an overall glaze, as though they simply reflected another light, not unlike the moon reflects the sun. Yes, in the end his eyes shone not the story of his years, but a mere echo of the soul that once extended to the tips of his every limb.

Though technically my grandfather by marriage and therefore not linked by genetic makeup, I nearly understand how it must have felt, for I too sense a form of sanity slipping through my fingers. Too often I feel my eyes glazing over like a deer caught in the headlights of life. Whether it be the ubiquitous act of walking into a room only to completely forget the purpose of doing so, the easily understandable act of typing the wrong password into one of my many email accounts or the more heinous crime of missing a loved one’s birthday, I find myself stepping on the virtual toes of this dance partner called memory day in and out.

And yet, others often accuse me of grandiose acts of nostalgia and sentiment. My mother went through yet another box of my left behind, but not forgotten, wares and relics hibernating in her cellar. In it she found old pompons, a diary from my cheerleading trip to Ireland, books I had written and illustrated in grade school and notes and birthday cards hailing from the beginning of time. Some objects she finally wrenched through my imaginary protective shield, enabling her to throw them away. Others, however, still emanated the spell of my sentimental value, charming her into keeping them for yet another day or year.

Perhaps this is why I find little room to remember menial things today such as my locker combination or home zip code. My memory banks simply cannot contain it all. Years of treasures, pages of stories and reels of homemade movies hold them captive. You see, the fact of it is this: I do not so much cherish sentiment as much as sentiment has long since besieged my heart and mind, stubbornly refusing to let them go and making room for the new only when they have finally become old.

For what you label sentiment, captivates my every step.
Binding history round my soul. Ne'er to let this prisoner go.
To live the moment, yore's lessons borrowed
For every today turns yesterday tomorrow.