I’m afraid of forgetting. Forgetting Pat. Forgetting the kids. Forgetting a lifetime of existence. Gives me the chills just thinking about it. I’m struggling with medication-induced memory loss and I hate it. There was a time in my life when I could remember everything and anything. Names, faces, random facts. I was a force to be reckoned with at Trivial Pursuit. Not so any longer. Cue Viking music as I load my fabulous memory on a boat, set it on fire, and send it out to sea.
I mention this because last night I watched The Notebook for the first time. It was just starting when I turned on the TV so I thought "Why not! I've heard so much about it, may as well see what all the fuss is about." The last thing I expected was the philosophical discussion I had with myself after it was over. I thought about love and about the progression of a relationship; the evolution of a love story. I thought about how loving another person completely forces you to live outside of yourself. Being a partner – a true partner – is about looking past all the nonsense and drama inherent in all relationships and focusing on the spark. The one that attracted you to each other, that made you fall in love. The genesis. That’s what needs nurturing and each couple determines what the nurturing encompasses.
Some couples fight; Pat and I fought the first time we met; and the second; and the third. We’re still fighting nearly 25 years later. I expect we’ll be fighting well into the future. I worry about the day we stop fighting. We define our relationship. There is no normal; no template. Each couple defines themselves. If you look, really look, you will find a story filled with grace and beauty, passion and pragmatism. You will find bitterness and blame, dignity and indignity. You will find loss and love and if you’re lucky, you will find the meaning of life. At least the meaning of yours.
I saw the first stages of Alzheimer’s many years ago; the mother of a friend. I watched as she slowly lost herself. First to go was her knitting, and then she couldn’t shop alone. I watched the awareness in her eyes as she realized what was happening to her. I watched her try to joke about it as those around her started to modulate their expressions when she repeated herself so not to add to her burden. I lost touch with her when my relationship with her son ended. I never saw the final act of her illness but I have talked with others that have lost family to the shadows and my heart breaks for them.
I thought about the lifetimes I’ve spent with Pat: his, mine, both kids. I’m terrified of forgetting that. I’m terrified of not knowing that I mattered to someone but I think I’m more terrified of not knowing that I had someone that mattered to me; afraid of losing my love story.
You write the story of your life so make sure you write what matters to you; make your story true. Add a new chapter every day. Don’t conform to other’s ideas of what it should be.
It is yours.
Make it a masterpiece.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh is a mother, writer and blogger raising kids and a husband in Plymouth. Check out her blog at "Did I Say That Out Loud?" Use caution when reading around the family, there is some strong language.