When I was a little boy, I always looked forward to our summer road trip when my parents, my sister and I would pile into Dad’s Coupe de Ville Cadillac and head South and East to visit the family. We always went to Alabama and Northern Florida first where my father’s parents, one of his brothers and a slew of cousins lived. Then we’d go East to Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C. and finally Williamsburg, Virginia, reconnecting with my mother’s sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and her mother resided.
Recently, my sister and I took our mother on the road again, returning to Williamsburg where Mom grew up, hoping to spark her quickly fading memory which continues to be eaten away because of Alzheimer’s disease. And instead of turning on tablets, TVs or Twitter, we did something that may seem both strange and archaic — we talked.
We sang songs that took us back to days of innocence, young love and hopes and dreams still to be realized with a playlist that included the Temptations, the Supremes, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett and the Jackson 5. And Mom knew all of the words. She clapped her hands and pantomimed dance steps that amazed me — mostly because she remembered so much that I had assumed she’d forgotten.
Visiting our home church was the best decision I could have made as dozens of my mother’s gray-haired, cane-carrying friends embraced her, whispering in her ears about wonderful moments from the past that they once shared and enjoyed so much. For three days, we abandoned all forms of technology, muting our phones and turning off Twitter. Amazingly, I learned a lot about my mother and my sister — things that I should have known or realized years ago.
I watched my mother cry as my sister prepared to leave our Maryland condo and return to her own home in Detroit. Mom didn’t want the memory-making weekend to end. I guess she realized that for her, both making and holding on to memories isn’t as easy as it once was.
But I’m going to keep right on doing whatever I can to help her remember. And along the way, I’m going to help create new situations that are worthy of remembering — quiet, precious moments without the noise of the television or the alert bell from my cellphone allowed to cause distraction.
Try it, if you dare. You’ll like it.