Living in Memories

My husband no longer lives in the present with me.
I don’t argue with him anymore as he prods me to remember the vivid details of a story he is telling. I
engage with him and smile instead, building up our history even if it’s only in his head.

In 2018, at the age of 43, Daniel had a brain aneurysm burst. On that day my life split into pieces: with
him and without him, partner and caregiver, before aneurysm and after.

Daniel’s long-term memory fared the best, enabling him to recall facts and memories as if they just
happened. The funniest part of this is that I am always in them. He might talk about something that
happened 15 years before we met. Despite this, he sets me in that memory seamlessly. I used to laugh
and remind him that it was an old girlfriend he was remembering. He would become agitated and
assure me that, in fact, I was there. When I realized how distraught it made him, I stopped correcting
him. Now I smile, agree, and even add on to the story if I’m able.

When Daniel talks with me, I’m constantly thinking of the past and how I can spark a memory inside
him. I try to get him to engage as much as possible and bringing up past memories is the best way.
Sometimes I see the light in his eyes switch on and hear his voice fill with love and laughter. These
moments mean the world to me because I know all too soon that light will dim, and he will leave me
alone again with my memories.

In this new reality, I live half in the past and half in the present; there is no room for the future. My
days are full of thinking about next steps: the next medications he’ll need, the next appointments to
prepare for, and the next timer I must answer to move him or empty his bags. I spend the few
moments that are my own thinking about days that have long since gone by. I try to recall them in as
much detail as possible so I can keep my own memories vivid. I hold them close to my heart and guard
them against time. At the close of harder days, I replay them as I attempt to fall asleep.

“I remember to think about the many things you did in years gone by. Then I lift my hands in prayer,because my soul is a desert, thirsty for water from you.”
Psalm 143:5-16

My husband isn’t gone but he’s not with me anymore. I can’t hug him and snuggle up to him, but I can
clean him and care for him. I honor the memories of our life together by taking up the mantle and
standing for him. I tell him every day that I love him — and when he looks at me, I see that spark in his
eyes that tells me he is still in there loving me too, past and present.

In a voice that is no longer his, in a bed we can’t share, hooked up to feeding tubes, he reminds me
that we have to get the house cleaned because of the party the next day. The memory is his reality. He gives me a list of what to do and assures me that he will help me after he rests. I rub his arm and smile. I tell him that I know he will. And we are both lost to a memory.

Amanda Tingle Taylor
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