The Good and the Bad

The summer Judah was one was one of the most magical summers in my memory. My only job was my kids. We ate entire flats of fresh, organic strawberries all day long. Red juice stained everything in our house and all of their clothes. We swam every morning because we had a pool in our backyard then. We snuggled after naps and watched Dora and The Backyardigans. We played dress up and laughed at Judah parading down the hall in his sister's swimsuit. We juiced constantly. We played outside until it was hot enough for the kids to strip down and run in the sprinkler. We had soft green grass in that backyard and we would lay in the grass and watch the clouds. At sunset we would swim again, this time with Joe. We would float in the lukewarm water and watch the brilliant spray of Arizona sunsets splashing across the empty sky.

That summer is imprinted in my mind. It sits there and defies every other glorious moment to just TRY to overcome it.

Here's the thing: I KNOW that that summer wasn't all sprinkles and unicorns. My marriage was dark and heavy. We had just come out of a short-lived separation. We were still broken people, living separate lives. Joe worked out-of-town more often than not. I was basically a single mom, soaking up whatever I could with my babies.

Isn't it funny how we remember these beautiful things, but we block out the ugly? We hold to those fabulous memories and burn them into our souls to keep ourselves from being seared by the painful ones.

My grandma had dementia. She often forgot who I was, or thought that I was my mom or my aunt. It wasn't unusual to see her gazing at nothing, lost in some captured memory or another. Her name was Anne, and Anne's life had been hard. She had experienced betrayal, adultery, drug addiction, an abusive marriage, two divorces, rejection, and had spent most of her life as a single mom with four daughters. Anne had also experienced redemption. She remarried her first husband very late in her life and he loved her well until the day he died.

Towards the end of my grandma's life she didn't remember her second husband, my grandpa. She literally couldn't recall who he was. And that was Anne's gift. He was painful. He was a broken part of her life. Dementia took his memory from her and she lived free-er because of it. Anne softened during those years of dementia. She listened, she told beautiful stories of joy and love and she kept her raunchy, sharp witted self intact. She loved my kids like they were the best gift she had ever been given. She called Aravis a corker and she marveled at every new thing Judah did. When Daisy survived the scorpion, my grandma couldn't stop talking about how amazing and strong Daisy was.

When Anne died, most of us got to spend a few days with her as she started to drift. Her life slowly ebbed away, or maybe her life slowly ebbed into being. As her spirit faded, she grew brighter. She forgot who I was altogether, but not before giving me this one last moment of clarity. I came into her hospital room with all three kids in tow, not knowing that she was dying. I thought she would recover from her fall like the time before. But, when I held her hand, she looked at me with such furious intent, and I knew she was saying goodbye. What she actually said was a great gush of affirmation. She told me how proud she was of me; what a great mother I was; how kind and beautiful I was. She poured her blessing out on me and I will never forget it. Ever.

I kind of think that we hold those sweet memories in such a safe place because we know that, someday, we will need to draw from them again. There is something beautiful about not letting the sorrow drown out our joy. I know that Anne's life was hard and painful. I also know that she found a soft place to land at the end. Her dementia was her gift. She remembered her daughters. She remembered the love Harry poured out on her in his last years. She remembered the beautiful. She had no more need for the broken, painful memories.

As I'm healing and moving forward, I'm hoping for a little bit of dementia. I don't want to forget my experiences altogether - they make me wiser. I want to let go of the hate, the weariness, the walls, the fear. I want to live in the beauty of that one summer and let everything else rest. Maybe another summer will be just as beautiful. Maybe I will enter into a season that doesn't require any kind of dementia. Maybe I will heal and forgive, without forgetting. Cause, let me be a serious kind of clear, I would never want to forgive and forget. That would only lead me to wash, rinse, repeat. No thank you. But I want my heart to forget the sting. I want my heart to stop living in the grip of wounding.

This may be a jumbled mess of a post. It's okay. Life is messy. Grace is messy.

Let's let it be messy for a while.

*March 2013