My best memories are the ones that lift me out of the dark empty places I sometimes find myself in.
It was on one of those dark empty days I found my mind drifting back to a more pleasant time when I provided support to someone who experienced cognitive decline and where I found the comfort I needed.
I’m surprised to hear his voice in my head as I drive around the bend in the road, “Those two guys are still standing there”.
He was of course referring to the life size figures of two sentries that stand outside a building in Hazen Park. When I first met him, he said this with a smile on his face as he glanced over at me from the passenger seat and would wait for me to smile back at him. I always did. It made me feel like a kid again.
I didn’t drive into the park, but instead parked across the road behind the grocery store. From up here I had a view of the whole park and beyond it where the Oromocto River emptied into the St. John River.
I turned off the engine and wrapped my hands around a hot cup of coffee I’d bought earlier. The wipers slapped across the windshield every so often to clear my vision. I sat alone and stared at the scene in front of me.
Straight ahead was the path to the bench we’d sit on.
I’d bring lemonade and we’d drink it while we watched the boats pass by – speed boats, canoes and boards that people stood on as the paddled along the river.
We’d watch and wait as a speed boat roared by to see if the people standing would fall off their boards. They almost always did which made us laugh.
As I looked along to the right, I saw the open area where the band played on Canada Day.
“Kinda loud”, he’d said. He remembered that loud music for days afterwards whenever anyone mentioned Canada Day. On our way back to the car, some young boys amused themselves by rolling down the grass on a small hill that ended at the trail we were on. He smiled watching them and I wondered what pleasant memory that brought back for him.
Further to the right, the road disappeared behind an old brick building ending at a gravel parking lot where we’d feed the gulls.
I’d hand him torn pieces of bread that he’d throw from the car window to the screeching flock. “They’re not sea gulls because there’s no sea around here” he’d say to me, “There just gulls.” I would smile in response.
My coffee is lukewarm as I finish the last of it. I feel better. With a smile on my face, I put the car into gear and head for home.
* From Ulysses - Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
© Simile – Training in Supportive Care, 2023