Tuesday, May 11, 1999    


"Preserve your memories...they're all that's left you now" - (Simon and Garfunkel)

By:Jan F.

"I have something to show you", said the elderly man as he placed a leather-bound book into my hands. "This is my scrapbook".

Frank's wife died five years ago. He has no children or other family, and lives alone in an apartment in a local retirement center. He is occasionally confused. Medicare forms and monthly bills began to befuddle him, so for the past couple of years I have visited him twice a month to help with his checkbook and other paperwork, and to keep him company.

On this afternoon, after the business was completed, Frank shyly brought out his scrapbook. While I had, on occasion, brought some of my albums to show him, I'd had no idea that he had his own memory book. He carefully turned the pages, unadorned with stickers or fancy paper, showing me remarkably well preserved photographs of his grandparents, his father and other relatives. He lingered over a picture of his mother, a beautiful young woman who died of childbirth complications ten days after Frank was born in 1911.

Further on in the scrapbook were photos and memorabilia of Frank's high school days, awards for his work as a librarian and as a community volunteer, and mementoes of his hobbies of macrame and needlework. Other pages were dedicated to his marriage to Elizabeth, pictures of their home and of their travels together.

The final pages of the album are not organized as neatly as the rest. A formal portrait of Elizabeth, the booklet from her funeral and a newspaper obituary are tucked between the pages. The book is incomplete not because Elizabeth was the family archivist - Frank clearly was - but because he cannot bear to confront these reminders of her death.

Much has been written about the importance of preserving family memories for future generations to appreciate, but Frank is the last surviving member of his family. There is no one to whom these keepsakes may be left. But his work has not been in vain; this book is important to Frank. For although he may be confused about the doctor bills and may even forget what day it is, he is never confused about the people and places in his scrapbook. These are his memories, and they're all that's left him now.

Tomorrow at dMarie Daily: Scrapping and Match Making, by Quest

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