Why I Hold Onto My Past

Diana - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on March 1, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, legacy

My grandmother’s health began to fail seven years ago. As the years passed by, her hearing began to deteriorate, and her body became thin and frail. She began to lose her eyesight and the ability to walk, which the doctors said she would never be able to regain. She went from a healthy, elderly woman into a ghost right before my eyes.

I remember one particular day talking to her about her life and the experiences she had gone through. It started off as a normal conversation and then it became in-depth about her past. She recalled the day she first set eyes on her husband and how she knew that he was the one. She talked about what it was like to be the wife of a congressman and about the troubles that came with traveling between California and Virginia for years with her children. After the death of my grandfather, she went on trips all around the world venturing out on her own. All of these memories were recounted as if she was experiencing them, as if time had ceased to exist for a moment, and her life was unfolding all over again. She remembered all the details and emotions, yet she could not even see a foot in front of her. As her body and health failed her, her mind was impeccable. Her memories were what kept her alive for so long.

After she passed away, there was a funeral held for her where all of her close friends and family gathered together. Although the funeral was emotional, the moment that was the most compelling to me was when we had to sell her house. I remember driving with my family to her home in Martinez, California. As I walked through the gate and opened the front door, the breeze swept by, and her scent started to surround me and began filling me with the memories of Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings. As I walked gradually around her house, I touched all of the furniture and hesitated past the pictures on the walls. The objects in her house slowly began to come to life making my head race with the thoughts of my own past here. Walking by the laundry room, I remember giggling with my brother as we tried to roll our toy plastic balls as fast as we could to see who could make the loudest noise on the laundry machine. My grandmother would yell across the house. We would run and hide until she found us, and then we had to face her endless scolding. Then there was the little book nook where I would curl up on the oversized chair reading my Grandmother’s children’s books. I walked onward through the rooms filled with memories to where my parents had begun to separate the items in the living room by placing into boxes what we would keep and what we would have to give away. As I sat there watching them, I was overcome by sorrow and fear. These are the things that my grandmother had accumulated over the years of her life, and they are what my memories also consist of.

A couple months later, the house was sold to a new family who moved in soon after, and it was no longer the place where I found comfort and strength, part of which came from my Grandmother being there. As days turned into months and months into years, all of the bits and pieces that we kept from her house were eventually stowed away in our side yard shed, now rarely opened to see what is left inside. Despite this and after moving away to college from the places that I have associated with her, I am still often reminded of all of the memories that I have of her. After going through this experience, I believe that we do not need physical objects in order to remember those we have lost because we have our memory of them, which keeps them alive inside of us. Material objects may come and go, but our memories are not so easily forgotten.