Thursday, April 08, 2004

My nan swears that we used to take road trips with my portable plastic potty strapped onto the trunk of her old boat of a car. I, personally, have no such recollections and the only other person who could have confirmed or denied this story was Mrs. Webster, and she died in February of 2000 at the age of two or three hundred. Webster was my nan's best friend, and the fact that Webster was at the outside several decades older than my nan didn't phase either one of them. They were an aging Thelma and Louise, drag racing salesmen and making me teach them the lyrics to the Def Leppard songs on the radio.
And all of this, ostensibly, with a little toilet tied to the back.
She's stuck by this story for years, but I can't fathom why we would need to bring the potty along. Was I that attached to it? Had I named it, made it a friend? Did it sing me to sleep? All plastic toilet-related memories seem to have gone the way that such things will go. And she can't shed any more light on the subject, because she has Parkinsons and it has turned her into a mumbling machine.

It's strange that I have so few memories related to my nan, considering how much time we spent together. Most of what I do remember is certainly tinged by her recollections because she tells the same stories over and over again, and has been for the last 20 years. Her Parkinsons has shifted her to a whole other country inside my brain. I strain now to collect the fragments of anecdotes scattered all over the years, to file them and to keep them in order to provide my younger counterparts with something resembling a story. She won't be with us much longer, you see, and I feel that it will be an even shorter amount of time before she is lost in effect to whatever type of system error is running rampant inside her brain.
I am, after all, the unofficial record keeper of my family. I am the only one young enough to have primarily fond memories of my paternal grandparents, and the only one old enough to have had the time to form impressions from these memories. I was the only lucid witness to the days before my father and his siblings all hated each other; before second marriages, second children, mortgages, and occasional sobriety. And so it has fallen to me to pass judgment, to try and see my relatives as whole people, and to tell their stories from all sides.

When Mrs. Webster was dying her memories disintegrated until most of what was left was myself. This was a cruel trick that her brain played on Webster's only daughter, Elsie. I suppose that I was related to the happiest time in Webster's life, after her tyrant husband had died and her humorless children had married and moved on. It was at this point, so late in her life, that Webster was able to be just herself, and she was herself in spades, having adventures with my nan and with a four or five year old me.
I see this same trend emerging in the slow implosion of my nan's mental facilities. She tends to call my cousins and my brothers by my name before she remembers that they have their own, and all too many of her intelligible mumblings are about what happened 15 or 20 years ago. And as I have always done, I will record this tumble and I will keep it safe so that my younger family can remember their oldest relative through the eyes of the one that loved her without reservation or resentment.

No comments: