memories

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this here before, but once upon a time, I was a deejay. I worked at weddings, mostly, with the occasional birthday party or prom thrown in to mix it up. Like any job, there were things to love about it (getting to play music at parties, a nice little extra paycheck) and things to hate about it (lugging heavy equipment on a hot summer day, and terrible hours for someone who sees nothing wrong with being in bed at 10 p.m.).

Whenever I’m at a wedding, I feel a little wave of nostalgia for the days when I ran the party, but in general, I don’t miss it. In fact, until this past weekend, I don’t think I really grasped what I missed about it, but now, I’ve got it. It’s the moments the photographer misses.

Now, if you’re a photographer at a wedding, you’re focusing on the big shots and hoping to grab some of the fun stuff as well, but you can’t be everywhere at once, you know? And if you’re a member of the family or the bridal party, you’re pretty focused on the bride or groom or your dress. If you’re a really close friend of the couple in question, you might be paying a lot of attention to the details you helped them choose, or the other members of your tight-knit group.

But when you’re a bit of an outsider, like the deejay is, you see it all for what it is. You see the emotion flood across the bride’s face as she steps onto the dance floor with her new husband, and you see the way that changes when she dances with her father and then, her friends. You see the way the mother of the bride glows (or glares, in the case of some of the divorced parents I saw) as the father/daughter dance takes place. You see people letting loose with the dance moves, both good and bad. You see a groomsman working up the nerve to ask the bride’s sister to dance. You see the boy dance a song with his grandma and allow her to hold him close for a moment after the song finishes.

Last weekend, we were in upstate New York for Jared’s cousin’s wedding, which was gorgeous. And I didn’t bring my camera, since I wasn’t checking bags and had no room, so, naturally, the venue would have been exquisite for some great shots. Next time, I guess.

But, since I only really knew a small handful of people there, it was easy for me to sort of revert to my old deejay ways and really, really people watch. Man, I missed it. I caught those moments that maybe nobody else did, and while I don’t have the pictures, I remember them vividly enough that many days later, they’re still making my heart smile.

And it made me realize that it’s not only at weddings when those moments occur (although there are plenty more there than at, say, the movie theater). They’re all around us, all the time. And if they make you feel happy the way they make me feel happy, I hope you take the time to notice them.

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The death of John Hughes brought with it a flood of memories for millions. Who among us didn’t try to do the lipstick trick? (Turns out it doesn’t work so well when your cleavage consists of a training bra stuffed with toilet paper.) And it’s hard to find someone my age (or five to 10 years older or younger) who doesn’t have an important adolescent memory closely tied to one of his movies.

While some of those memories are sure to be happy, some are certain to recall pain. But at least we have them. Not everyone does.

kris&garndma

Grandma Sara and me at my high school graduation open house, 1998.

When I was in sixth grade, I remember getting so annoyed with my Grandma Sara for asking me whether I had homework multiple times on the way home from school. “God,” I thought, “why doesn’t she just listen and pay attention?”

A few years later, after she’d been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but was still well enough to live on her own, I remember being frustrated that she’d forgotten to make the pie for Thanksgiving. She made the best pies, and when I’d asked her whether they were done (as a helpful reminder — I wasn’t a completely terrible child), she assured me they were. People with Alzheimer’s sometimes tell you what you want to hear, not even realizing that they’re lying.

The following month, I tried to get out of going to her apartment because OH MY GOD, if I had to hear that poinsettia story ONE MORE TIME I would definitely die (in the way that teenagers often die). Yes, Grandma, I know they used to be all tall and spindly and kind of ugly, and you’re right! Now they’re so lush and full and beautiful! It is amazing.

I would give anything — ANYTHING — to hear that story from her one more time. Or any story, for that matter.

Grandma Sara has been in a nursing home for the past eight years and has dealt with Alzheimer’s for close to 18. She can no longer put together a sentence or tell us what she’s thinking. At 90 years old, her physical condition remains mostly good, but mentally … she’s mostly gone. On rare occasions, she’ll light up for a second when she sees one of us. Whether she recognizes us or is just happy to see a smiling face, it’s impossible to tell. She hasn’t responded in a way that makes sense to anything I’ve said in years. Mostly, she just tries to be polite to these people who come and sit with her. Sometimes she laughs, sometimes she’s weepy. We never know why — we’re just thrilled when we visit on a good day.

This is a woman who used to put on lipstick to get the mail. She had her family convinced she liked the wings of the chicken best because she knew everybody else liked the other parts better. One time I asked her if she’d ever sworn in her whole life, and she responded, “Don’t tell anyone, but I might’ve said, ‘Oh, hell,’ once or twice.”

She made the best cookies and pies, as well as the most beautiful formal gowns for my mom’s high school dances, and she took care of me after school for years (always making sure I had a snack). I taught her to shoot baskets, but never took the time to let her teach me how to sew.

Yuki has raised a lot of money in past years. She's not too keen on the UF mascots, though.

Yuki has raised a lot of money in past years. She's not too keen on the UF mascots, though.

On October 24, I’ll be walking in the Gainesville Alzheimer’s Memory Walk in her honor. I’m looking for people to walk with me — if you want to raise money, great. If you just want to show support, that’s great too. I’m also taking donations — you’ll see a small button over to the right if you want to donate online, or you can contact me if you’d rather do it in another way. Or, if you just want to share a story about how Alzheimer’s has touched your life, I’d love to hear that, too.

**Ed: I forgot to mention that anyone who lives in the area and wants to donate or become a part of Team Go for Grandma is TOTALLY invited to a par-tay at the Seymour residence following the walk. There will be food and booze — what more do you want?

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