Lost Things

On our last summer visit to Canada, we began the journey by leaving a brand new, lovely, expensive hoodie on our first flight (and missing our next flight – but not because of the hoodie, kind of the other way around). Of course we didn’t miss it straight away, so weren’t sure where we last had it. Searches through cases and the BA website ensued. The beautiful hoodie never appeared in our lives again, but it began that summer’s theme of losses. A retainer (left behind in a motel room – never recovered); my contact lenses (not lost but left behind in Dublin, but not before I’d searched our rooms and all luggage and everywhere – ordered new ones on line); a favourite earring at a folk fest (retraced countless steps and asked lots of innocent people – never recovered); swim goggles, hats, flip flops, sunglasses: we must have left a trail of summer paraphanalia in our wake.

I’d never seen anything (or not seen so many things) like it, and vowed never again.

This time in Canada is different.

The losses aren’t so tangible (though I have lost two pairs of sunglasses and we’ve left a few travel mugs and baseball caps in our wake). My closest link to the grandfather I never knew is gone, and at my grand uncle’s memorial, I felt a new wave of grief wash over me with the realization of what I had missed in not knowing his oldest brother, my mother’s father. Friends at home are leaving, moving out of our lives as they are moving into other ones. We’ve lost trust in a couple of relationships. There have been more than a few nights of lost sleep. Our family has lost all members of childhood (though we have two wonderful youth now instead).

The biggest loss, though, is the devastating one brought by the slow progression of dementia: memories, faces, abilities, mobility all sliding away down a slow moving river that rolls along relentlessly. Only one person is losing those things, but the rest of us are missing the conversations, the company, the solidity of the one we are ever so slowly losing, though there are still times when the razor sharp wit cuts through everything.

I have been in the same house as my father since the middle of December and on the last day of June while my sister and I were sitting with him, he said my name. At that moment I realized he had not said my name in my presence the whole time I have been here. He knows me, who I am, what I am, how I am. I know that. But it was something to hear him say my name; and until then, I didn’t even realize that that was missing.

My frustration over losing things, things, everything, two years ago almost built up into a frenzy: all those resources (mostly time, that precious commodity) spent in vain attempts to recover the detritus of our summer life.

I am not frustrated this time. It is no use spending time looking for things now, not even the sunglasses (and as I write we are now up to three lost pairs, and another, favourite hoodie). Someone asked me how I was recently; how things were going. I gave my usual honest, but short and easy answer.

Then they asked, simply, “Are you sad?”

“Yes,” I said. “I am sad.” I am not frantic or frustrated, just plain old sad.

And though my overwhelming feeling about this time is gratitude for all that we have experienced and received, sadness is a big part of it too. I know that sometimes rather than looking for the lost stuff, you just need to stop and acknowledge it is gone, and let yourself mourn.

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