Kate’s being up so early this morning meant that that we also got to Panera early. I think this was the fourth day in a row that she was in a particularly good mood. She clearly recognized where we were as we drove up to the restaurant. When I gave her my hand to help her up the curb to the sidewalk, she didn’t want it. Then she quickly changed her mind, saying, “I didn’t really need it, but it helps.”
As usual, I got her situated at our table and went to the counter to order our drinks and her muffin. When I returned with the muffin, she noticed that I didn’t have anything at my place and wondered why. I explained that I had already eaten an omelet at home. She teased me a little saying, “You just had to have something healthy, didn’t you?” What was striking about this is that, except for lunch, I have only gotten something to eat two or three times in all the years we have been going there. This was the first time she has said anything.
For thirty minutes or so, she worked on her iPad while I worked on my earlier post. Then, I think I said something about her mother. I know that she asked her mother’s name. I told her. Kate said, “She was quite a woman.” and I said, “Your mother would be proud of you. Then she said, “Do you think so?” I said, “I know so.”
I proceeded to tell her one of the things that I knew her mother admired about her, the 19 years she served as the volunteer librarian at our church. As I have done a couple of other times recently, I told her about her work a little like telling a story. She was surprised to know she had served so long. I explained that she had the perfect combination of training, personal experience, and personality for the position and that no one filling that position had had each of those qualities. I told her how well-acquainted she became with the parents and children as well as the teachers and other church members. I also told her about the many people she had helped to find materials for some special purpose. My mention of specific things she had done, jogged her memory a bit. That led to her adding other things she remembered from those 19 years. It was a beautiful conversation, and I loved seeing how good she felt about the contribution she had made. The library really had become a vital place under her direction, and her mother really would have been proud.
Our conversation caused me to reflect a moment. Could memory loss affect my self-esteem? I always try to imagine what it must be like not to have a memory. I do know that Kate has said a few things over the past year that suggest many other people have something about which they can be proud and that she doesn’t. It is easy for me to imagine that if I had forgotten everything about myself, I wouldn’t be able to think of anything that makes me special. I might feel somewhat inferior to other people. This is an aspect of the disease I hadn’t thought about before. Kate hasn’t forgotten everything about herself, but she remembers less and less all the time. I try to bolster her ego in every way I can, but I plan to be more sensitive to this issue in the future. I want her to remember what makes her special.