Saturday, January 9, 2010

Maintaining Memories

Our House in the Holler is Richard’s Tennessee Mountain Home and my retreat from my crazy world. The people of Coker Creek are our people, as are the people we’ve collected along our separate lives and our lives together. Our challenge is to make new friends while keeping the old. They are all gold to us.

We bought our home in the holler without knowing anything about Coker Creek. We didn’t know that it’s in a dry county where beer isn’t considered liquor, but wine is. We didn’t know that the closest mid-sized grocery store is twenty-three miles away. We didn’t know that the closest restaurant is eleven miles down a steep, serpentine mountain road. We didn’t know that the closest ethnic restaurant is a Mexican one that doesn’t serve margaritas or any other alcohol because it’s in a dry county. We also didn’t know that the most exotic ingredients you can buy within an hour’s drive are Americanized Italian, Mexican and Chinese foods.

Something else we didn’t know is how community oriented the folks are and how much we’d be welcomed into their hearts and homes. As conservative as people tend to be here, I was afraid that I’d be burned at the stake. Instead, people seem to find me amusing, and they love salt-of-the-earth Richard. Even though he is so smart and considered a bit quirky in the city, he fits right in in Coker Creek.

I didn’t want to make any more friends. I already feel guilty for not keeping up with the friends I have. Now, here we are several hundred miles from our old friends with a whole bevy of new friends. It wouldn’t do any good for us to run away. We’d still love these people and they love us, so we’d be leaving a part of ourselves behind if we left. And I’d want to continue contact with all of these people.

Richard doesn’t seem to suffer from separation guilt or anxiety. When people are gone, they’re gone. When we move, his philosophy about our former home seems to be, “That was then, and this is now.” I like to drive by and see our former homes and reminisce about our former lives. I also like to hear from old friends, no matter how long we go between visits. Richard wants to close the door and never look back.

He says he didn’t grieve when, at age thirteen, he lost his father because his father had become a part of him.Whenever we’re making memories and I want to take a bunch of pictures or buy souvenirs, Richard tells me that he doesn’t need either because he’s doesn’t have Alzheimer’s yet. Maybe the reason he knows so much is because every experience he’s ever had is stored in his rapid-access memory. I guess my memory and my imagination just aren’t as good as Richard’s.

The only thing we have left of yesterday is the memories; when we turn off the tapes of our memories, we lose that part of our lives. I have had one of the richest lives of anyone I know. I won’t go forward without recalling what came before.

I don’t know how we’re going to resolve all the conflicting emotions plaguing us right now. I do know that we’ll have to say good-bye to Richard’s Tennessee Mountain Home and my House in the Holler unless we can find a way to get proper emergency care for Richard. For a manly man, he’s delicate, you know.

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