Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Memories are made of this

on May 5, 2012

Yesterday was my Grandfather’s funeral.  It was a sad day, but a good one, and a fitting and dignified send-off for him.  Since my mother died a few years ago, my sister Peacock* and I are the closest relatives and best placed to assist my Gran in making the practical arrangements (most of this was done by my sister, who lives much nearer than I do, and to whom I’m profoundly grateful for the day-to-day work she has done for years, taking care of them and Mum in all sorts of ways).  We were also most obvious choices to prepare a eulogy, delivered at the funeral by Peacock and our father.  This meant that we had to stop and think through all our memories of Grandfather, deciding which we should share with the relatives and friends at the funeral, finding out which ones were treasured memories for all of us and which ones – in the bizarre way that our minds work – were peculiar to only one of us and had evaded storage by the rest.  We talked about his his youthful appearance, his strict expectations of behaviour and his wonderful sense of humour.  We remembered his knack for inventing funny songs or poems, and the phrases he used which eventually took their place in family history as in-jokes and catchphrases.

Grandfather enjoying a joke at the Bookworm’s birthday party in 2007

Even now, after the eulogy has been written and delivered, more and more memories are returning to me, from the sound of his voice calling “Hello-o!” as he came into the house after he’d been for one of his constitutional walks, to the way he used to make us laugh with his impressions of famous snooker players (I especially liked his Terry Griffiths).

The minister who led the funeral service yesterday mentioned that memory is one of God’s good gifts to us, and he’s right.  Our memories of Grandfather have been a blessing and a comfort to us over the last few years, because he has been suffering from Alzheimer’s and the man he was had been all but lost for some time before his death.  His memory began to malfunction and slowly deteriorated, before his body did the same.  But even then, the gift of memory wasn’t completely denied him.  He might not have known what year it was, where he lived, or even – tragically – who my Gran was at times, but the most valuable times of his life stayed with him.  He talked about his “girl”, Ruby, and how much he loved her, despite not recognising that the elderly lady, my Gran, who was there looking after him every day, was the same person.  He sometimes mentioned his beloved little daughter (my Mum) and wondered where she was.  Despite his failing capacities and the confusion of navigating his way through everyday life, the memory of those precious times was still there.

Some memories are ones we keep with us and focus on regularly.  Some, like the ones I have shared with my family over the last couple of weeks, are prompted by someone else’s recollections.  Still others are another kind of unexpected gift.  Having recently subscribed to Netflix, we’ve been enjoying the extra variety of  series and films available to us and last week I watched for the first time the pilot episode of Twin Peaks.  I never watched it in the 90s when it was on TV (and won’t be watching any more episodes now – I was really keen after the first episode, but having made a chance discovery online that it delved into themes I wasn’t keen on, I made the decision to read up about it via Wikipedia instead and saved myself an estimated 28 hours in the process!) but of course I was aware of the theme tune by Angelo Badalamenti.  For the opening titles an instrumental track is used, but the vocal version subsequently enjoyed reasonable success as a single called Falling, performed by Julee Cruise.  As I began watching the episode and heard the sultry, rippling chords of the opening bars, I was suddenly transported in my mind to a hot afternoon in 1992.  I was with my sixth-form boyfriend in the back garden of my family home, having just cycled back from school.  Someone in a neighbouring garden had a radio on quite loud, and Falling was playing.  The relaxed, slightly lazy, pace of the tune seemed to suit the weather and the mood of the day.  I remember the smell of the gardens, the warmth of the sun and the feeling of happiness (in the days before the modern AS/A2 format of the ‘A’ level course there were no exams in the Lower Sixth, of course, and so no real cause for stress or hard work!).

The memory only lasted a moment but I was surprised at its intensity and suddenness.  It never ceases to amaze me how our minds can be more effectively provoked by sound or smell than by a written or spoken description.  I’ve become very good at those “guess the year” hours on the radio, especially for my sixth form/university years when I moved about a lot, because it’s so easy to picture where I was when I heard the songs in question (and if I don’t recognise them it means it’s late ’95 or early ’96, when I was living abroad!).   Sometimes I don’t even know what exactly has triggered a memory – I used to experience distinct flashbacks to a particular house in France, whenever I visited a friend of mine who lives near here.  I’m fairly sure it was associated with the smell of her house – I thought it was coffee, but interestingly my friend has now moved house and I don’t find her new home nearly so evocative, despite the fact that she makes and drinks as much coffee as ever she used to!

Obviously, there are bad memories as well as good, but I think that memories are a gift to us from God.  Without them we would not be able to learn, develop, form relationships or enjoy any experiences half so much as we do.

*Not her real name! – but had it been left to me, aged 2, to christen her, it would have been

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6 responses to “Memories are made of this

  1. fionamerrick says:

    Gorgeous. Beautifully written xxx

    • northmum says:

      Thank you! I’ve been formulating this in my head ever since the Twin Peaks moment, but it really just came together yesterday with the idea that memories are a gift.

  2. fionamerrick says:

    I’d love to share this on my blog – no pressure at all, but please let me know if that’s okay! xxx

    • northmum says:

      Yes, no problem! xx

    • northmum says:

      If you’re linking to it I just hope your readers don’t expect too much – when they’ve been reading yours, they might find my complaints about the Metro ticket machines or my cream tea analysis a little banal!

      • fionamerrick says:

        Nonsense – your blog is gorgeous! What could be nicer than a cream tea analysis? We walked past the Almshouses yesterday but didn’t have time to go in – I shall, next time, though! xxx

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