Unforgettable

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“Okay, Dad,” Rebecca Swann said to Ray Bentley as she showed him old photographs, this one her late mother and Ray’s wife of fifty years, “who’s this woman?”

“I dunno, I can’t make it out and I don’t remember anyway,” Ray said with a toss of his hand, tuning toward the wall of the nursing home’s common room.

“It’s Mom, Dad, don’t you remember?” Rebecca said and put the photo back into the pile of Ray’s black and white forgotten memories.

Rebecca saw a small group enter the common room, touring the facility as a potential home for the elderly woman toddling along with her walker, when she heard her father take two deep sniffs, saw him turn, and watched him beam as he blurted out, “Helen?”

The elderly woman brought her disheartened gaze up from the floor and saw not an 78-year-old man seated at the table in front of her, but rather the 19-year-old who had given her the brand of perfume she wore for the past forty-eight years, the one called Unforgettable, and she smiled a teary smile, broke away from her children, crying “Ray!”

As someone whose certain memories seem to be sifting away more each day, I was moved by Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word FORGOTTEN to express the power certain crazy stimulants have on memories you would think long lost. I love how that works.

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4 thoughts on “Unforgettable

  1. I love this! My dad had Alzheimer’s in the last several years of his life and it was amazing what stimulants brought him “back” sometimes. Often he would respond, thinking he was in the 1940’s or something, but at least he would start talking and would become quite animated. I treasured those moments.

  2. Touching story. I especially liked your personal note in the end, “I was moved by Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word FORGOTTEN to express the power certain crazy stimulants have on memories you would think long lost. I love how that works.” Its true forgotten means things/places/people forgotten and yet it always tends to remind us those forgotten…

  3. As someone who works in a facility with many memory-impaired people, this story really rang true. As a young woman, one of our residents used to perform for Westinghouse radio which was broadcast from the Hotel Kimball in Springfield. On most days now, she struggles to remember simple things like her name, but then she’ll sit at the grand piano and start playing those songs from all those years ago. Her fingers remember what the mind cannot, because music is stored in a different part of the brain. I know the sense of smell can also bring back powerful memories,, and I imagine those memories are stored much like music is. Fascinating how the mind works, isn’t it?

  4. I completely get how smells can trigger memories! My grandmom used this talcum powder with a unique fragrance and even today, if I get a whiff of it, my heart just leaps up and her face dances before my eyes. You just did that with this story! Loved it!

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