I sat with my wife, Dorothy, listening to a beautiful rendition of the award winning song, Memory, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn for the 1981 musical, Cats. I wondered how much it meant to Dorothy, since her dementia means most of her memories are now forgotten.
I try to bring her mind back to the past to remember the things she achieved – raising four wonderful children with not a lot of help from me except when we shared school camping holidays. And then her hours of family history research, compiling the records and writing the stories of five branches of her family; plus her outdoor life enjoying tennis and orienteering; her painting, sewing the children’s clothes, the craftwork and quilt-making; her attention to her aging mother; our trips in Australia and overseas. I could go on but those facets of her life are lost to her and there will never be a new dawn for her that brings promise, that responds to desire, that is really special.
I am so lucky to have many memories of what I’ve done and where I’ve been – teaching, bushwalking, orienteering, travelling, photographing; and I have used those adventures as the basis for writing children’s stories, three novels, and more recently, my own published memoir. And I am fortunate that I still have the desire, the wish for more travels, more adventure, as well as more writing goals. My bucket list is huge, can’t be contained in a large beer barrel; it needs a warehouse for storage.
Of course I know my earthtime is running out and the ants and worms are waiting for my ashes. Sniffing around. So I guess there will have to be priorities, snap decisions, seized opportunities. But as I say I am ‘lucky’, because without ‘desire’ there is no new dawn, no love for extending life, no worthwhile tomorrow.
And as I go forward I will also weep for Dorothy. She has lost both her memory and her desire.