Looking up at the woman before her whose features were blurring behind tears of frustration, her gaze turned toward the grey corridor beyond the door of the tiny room. In here, her life now seemed miniaturised and encased in one small space within a complex of strangers. She returned to the conversation with a sense of frustrated grief. Why did the words not flow? Why did no familiar faces come to mind? Why the stops and starts as she struggled to recall a life lived well? A life framed by the deprivation and disruption of War. Of Labor Camps. A life spent on the run with a young family for reasons not of their making. A life of resettlement and new beginnings, routines formed with the passage of years. Loved ones lost and new ones born. Years of laughter, tears and barbed wire boundaries set in the mind. Boundaries of survival wrought to block the dark intrusions of horrors past and losses beyond imagining. Now she had reached the twilight times and this was something new and more cruel than anything that had gone before. As she looked back upon the path she had trodden, the roads she had travelled, long stretches appeared enveloped in dark mists. Small stretches bathed in sunlight suddenly disappeared into an ethereal nothingness. She could no longer see what should have been there still. No longer behold the images of those whom she had loved. Some lost. Some still with her – like the woman before her whose gaze she held in sadness. If only she had memorised more carefully. Those faces. Those events. Those thoughts and carefully considered wisdom gleaned over the years. But it seemed she had not. She felt she had failed in some way to treasure enough the moments that were woven together during the journey she had taken. Why could she not recall? Why had she neglected to find life precious enough to be remembered? Tears of frustration and grief seemed to fill her days as little else now did.
It was time to leave. I looked upon my grandmother for what would be the last time, as she sat in bewilderment and frustrated sadness at not being able to recall the name she had given her only daughter. The daughter taken from her too soon and for whom she had spent decades grieving. This elderly woman who had nurtured a family of young children intact through the hardships and horror of a War that had not been theirs. Displaced and disowned, they had made a new life in a new world, but now the journey was lost on her. Dementia had robbed her of the right of old age – her Memories.