Please let me remember you

28 Jan 2011By Chua Chern Nee, Singapore

Grandaunt’s condition has taken a turn for the worse. She no longer recognizes the way home, and cannot go anywhere without help. Not even to the shops or market in the neighbourhood she used to frequent. It’s like there’s an eraser in her head. All the memories inside her seem to be slowly fading away.

As time goes by, slowly but surely, she will not even remember the faces of her children. I visited Grandaunt with my relatives the other day. Gazing, she could not recall who I was. It was not unexpected. After all, I hardly visited her.

Then the others took turns asking her, “Do you know who I am? What’s my name?” Despite being bombarded by questions, her expression remained blank. The relatives refused to give up and started giving hints hoping that somehow they could trigger her memory, or whatever left of it.

All the constant probing and questioning finally got to her. In annoyance, she chafed, “I do not remember any of you. So, please stop asking!” A wave of awkward silence swept across the room. Then someone jokingly remarked, “We all know how fantastic Grandaunt’s memory is; I bet she is just teasing us.”

It caught Grandaunt off-guard. With a bitter smile, she replied, “Can’t be helped. There are a lot of things that I can’t remember. Even my culinary skills are deteriorating. Luckily, there is my daughter-in-law who takes care of all the household matters.”

Another relative replied, “I remember back in our village days, your culinary skills were top-notch.”

Suddenly Grandaunt brightened up, discarding her dejected looks. The memory of the past seemed to still be vivid in her. She could remember clearly which of the sons and grandsons were the apples of Great Grandmother’s eyes. Even the smallest details were etched in her memory.

But as we probed further and deeper, her face was once again washed in confusion. It was as though she was drunk. One moment, she was thinking clearly and speaking coherently. The next moment, her thoughts muddled and her speech became incomprehensible. What was real or what was not, she had all of us wrapped around her wondering.

After two hours, we got up and prepared to take our leave.

“You’re leaving already? Why not stay a while more?”

“We have bothered you long enough, we should go.”

Grandaunt’s children and daughter-in-law saw us out.

Grandaunt sighed, “I cannot remember all of you. I’m getting old, my memory has gone rusty.”

***

The recipient of 2009’s Nobel Prize for Physics, Charles Kao Kuen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2004. He may no longer remember what fiber optics are, but he still remembers his wife.

Former President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, during his later years where his disease took a turn for the worse, still clearly remembered his wife, Nancy.

***

For some unknown reason, my heart warmed when I read this. Because, even though all memories can be lost, but people fight to remember the traces of their love. Everyday, their motivation is simply to “let me remember you”.

Translation from original Chinese contribution to English by Annabel Lim.