Only Good Memories

Pain, sorrow, grief, sadness to the core; does it affect the things we remember? After my daddy died, my mother began waxing poetic about how she missed him and how good their life together was….nice, but, untrue, really. 

They argued long enough and loudly enough to make a fight between two tomcats look like the social event of the year. For most of my childhood he was a falling down alcoholic, one, who could keep it together for work- most of the time. She, on the other hand, had a tongue that could slice hardened steel like it was warm butter and she would goad him until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Then he would lash back at her-thus starting one more argument that would seem to last forever. She didn’t want the neighbors to “hear” them, so she would make him get in the car and drive so she could yell in the relative isolation of the vehicle. Most of the time I had to endure those trips pretending to be invisible. {and she never understood why my head was always in a book? Well, duh.}

After he died she would just go on and on about him. She loved him. She missed him. She needed him. He was a wonderful man. A wonderful companion. Sometimes I would comment on something that reminded me of one fight or other they had. According to her,  It was an argument, a discussion, a disagreement- never a “fight”. “We never fought.”  

She would vehemently deny the whole point and say it never happened or say that I had it wrong and would then relate the event as she remembered it. I never understood it. I asked her once why she only chose to have good thoughts about him and remember only the good things and she responded that when people die you just remember the good things- the bad part you forget. 

Being a nurse, I remember being in my psych nursing class and learning that the negative events in our lives are those that become the most vivid and enduring memories.  I cannot even attempt to answer my own question as to why she chose her memories. I have no clue. I suppose that was the only way she could cope after a lifetime of conflict.

Sometimes I wish that I could remember the good things about her… but I can’t. It’s the painful memories, the ones where I felt as if I didn’t matter as a child, I was belittled as a teen, and my own parenting was disrupted by her actions. In the end, the memories of the  disintegration into the madness that was our relationship until she died that I remember in living color.

There is a part of me that is so envious of everyone who had a “storybook life” where two parents loved each other well and showed it, where the individual was respected as a child and when a parent is lost, a healthy sorrow ensues. Actually I just wanted a real family, not one where I was an afterthought. 

(point of clarification: my parents were my grandparents who raised me after my biological parents divorced when I was 6 months old. I was dumped on my grandmother- my grandfather was serving in Korea at the time of my birth. They had been married less than a year when he shipped out- he was husband #6 or 7- never knew for sure).

Today she would have been 102 years old were she living; however, she gave up her fight with this world five years ago. I would like to miss her and to miss being with her. But I spent 35 years of my adult life missing a real, loving, trusting relationship with a woman who was irrevocably broken by the choices she made due to her mental illness. I think I grieved enough when she was alive to last the rest of my life.  

Back to the good/bad memories question…living long enough with the negative can extinguish the memory of the good.

 I think that’s one of the reasons Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

 And this is what I can try to do- fill my heart and mind with the things listed above- truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, goodness, virtue, praise. 

When I am full of these there will be no room for the negative, tainted, ugly, evil, damning thought. I’m not there yet.

Maybe she got that part after all….

Me? I am still waiting for the good memories to surface. 

Maybe they will.


This morning, one of my blogging friends posted this as her status on FB:

“Too often we focus on the negative when there is SO MUCH positive to celebrate! How are you celebrating the positive in your life today? I’d love to hear.”

In light of what I wrote about, Traci, I suppose that I should tell you that the positive I’m focusing on is Life. Birthdays do that for me- We’ve just celebrated the oldest grandchild’s birthday; about to celebrate the next to youngest grandchild’s birthday; and then comes another one’s birthday the first week of September; then we celebrate a new life’s arrival mid-September; and another grandchild’s birthday in October. Whew! So much to celebrate- perhaps those negative memories will fade just a bit.

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