By Gabe Coleman
I wonder what it’s like to have a lifetime of stories. And then what it’s like to not remember many of them on some days, any of them on others and, on a rare few, to remember each and every one in more vivid detail than the day they happened.
I didn’t think the mind could hold all of that — after all, I’m forgetting things I swore I’d always remember and I’m only 15. I’d tell you what they were, but then again, I’ve forgotten.
Maybe it’s because I’m young that the memories of what I deem significant are blurring at the edges. I’ve yet to have a first job, for example, and that’s something people tend to remember. My grandmother, Patricia, sure remembers hers, and I can recall the light flickering across her face when she told me about it.
“I was an outdoor advertising secretary — assistant to the company’s owner.” She wasn’t even 20 years old yet. “I loved how I had so many responsibilities, and men would have to come to me and ask me for their assignments and things like that.”
She told me she worked well back then, and added that she could type like a “whiz-bang.” Again, even the little things like the appropriate use of “whiz-bang” in a sentence had remained in my grandmother’s memory for all those years, yet she continued to be separated from what happened earlier that week, that day and even that minute. And even if 30 seconds later, her memory of the exact way she articulated her recollection had faded, I would have remembered it. Her enthusiasm and pride were tangible, and they became a part of me.
So, like my grandmother, I chose to start pioneering a trail early. It’s not necessarily a first job, no, but it’s a first action for a cause. The purple Alzheimer’s Awareness bracelets I wear to school aren’t the first bracelets I’ve ever worn, but they’re the first ones that burn with passion on my wrist. Our loved ones aren’t the first ones to suffer from this disease, but with each step we take forward in our walk, we’re one step closer to finding a way to make them the last.
In case you’re wondering, my grandmother had a lot more stories to share than just the one. I’m sure she has a lot more stories up in her head, too, likely so many that it’d take a lifetime to fully recall. I’m thankful for every story I get to hear and every second I get to spend with my grandmother, both because I love her so much and because she’s taught me so much. For instance, that the human mind can hold all of those stories. I’ve learned that it’s not so much a list of them up there, though; more like a rolodex — a rolodex of memories — and in my grandmother’s case, she just can’t always flip to the right file. They’re all still in there, though, just like I know the “whiz-bang” that once was is still inside my grandmother, too.
Gabe Coleman is fundraising for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Jacksonville. To donate toward his efforts, visit his fundraiser page. To learn more about Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/walk.