Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are Stories Necessary?

The stories that move us, touch us, and change us are necessary.  It may not even be character, plot, or setting that makes a story necessary, but the telling of it, the shape of the narrative, the voice of the teller, the way an idea or feeling from a story starts to dwell in the reader inspiring more ideas and feelings.

Stories give shape and detail to memory.  And, when we lose our memories, we still need stories, maybe more than ever.

In the early stages of her dementia, my mother-in-law became obsessed with her watch.  When we visited, she'd hold her watch up and peer at it from different angles.  Then she'd shake it, insist it was broken, and ask the time.  I'd tell her the time.  She'd be quiet for 30 seconds and then begin to look at her watch again and fret over it and demand to know the time.

"What time is it?  It's broken?  Do you see the time?

 1:15.  1:18.  1:20...

My husband and her caregiver were frustrated and impatient.  They wanted to distract her, to take the watch away, to do something else, but it only agitated her more, so we sat.

1:22.  1:23.  1:26.

"What time is it?  It's broken?  Do you see the time?


"Oh," she said.  "Now's the hard part."

"What do you mean?"

"It has to climb up the other side."

As her life became increasingly reduced - she still needed stories.  She saw in the youth of the hour, the early minutes, the big hand skipped easily down the right side of the watch face.  Life was good.  But then came the climb up through the 6, 7, and 8 of the hour, as if they were the later decades of life, the hard part.  I understood her story - an ancient one.  The wheel of fortune turns. 

Stories are necessary.

1 comment: