This I Believe

Zachary - Florence, Alabama
Entered on May 7, 2007

Blues for Yesterday

“Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind…”

We talked about his grandson a lot when I visited him, but his Alzheimer’s wouldn’t let him understand that we were talking about me. I hadn’t been close to my grandfather after I started college, and what I didn’t realize was how quickly his disease had advanced. I feel lucky I was able to spend so much time with him near the end of his life. I looked forward to our weekends because my life was spiraling out of control and I found a strange comfort in the fact that his memories of who I was were clearer than my own.

My grandfather was lost in time and continually reliving moments long forgotten. Sitting by his bed, watching him smile in his sleep, I knew when he was remembering. I would look through the old shoe boxes full of smiling faces and sunny afternoons; and I often wondered if he was reliving any of the moments captured in those grainy pictures. Those were the times that I envied him because I didn’t have those fond and vivid memories of my life anymore.

He didn’t recognize me now. He remembered me from the past, but couldn’t connect that image with me in reality. I was thankful he only remembered me how I had been and not how I had become. His memories weren’t of me failing my classes and getting suspended from college; they were of my love for reading books and me saying that I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. He didn’t remember the time I wrecked my car because I was drunk or the time I got caught smoking weed; but rather me being considerate of others and having him help me pick a bouquet of flowers for my grandmother. I chose to get in a car after I’d been drinking and risk not only my life, but others’ lives as well. I chose to use illegal drugs. I chose to stop going to my classes and ultimately fail them. I had become so much different than the person he remembered that I didn’t even recognize myself.

Spending time with him, I learned a lot about myself and who I wanted to be. My grandfather always said if you got bitten by a snake, then you have to suck the poison out, and I decided that was exactly what I had to do. I couldn’t change some of the mistakes that I’d made, but I could change what I was doing in the present. I think people’s pasts can haunt them or change them for the better, and finding that positive result from something negative is where my belief comes from.

My belief is simple and old-fashioned, but nevertheless important. I believe that mistakes are learning experiences and I’ve still got a lot of them left to make.