I Am That Which I Can Recall

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I was diagnosed with depression by my GP in 2002, it was actually just a roll of the dice, I had spent the previous 4 years or so going to so many specialists for physiological maladies that I lost count, everything, all the tests came back negative. I switched to a new doctor. At my first appointment he reviewed my records after a short chat and looked up and said, “I want to try something, it’s possible that all of these things may be physical manifestations of severe clinical depression, I want to start you on antidepressant medication and see if there are any changes”

So he started me on Effexor XR, I was hesitant… me depressed? Impossible. I “did my research” on Venlafaxine, mostly to check for side-effects, after three or four days I started taking it.

My (ex) wife asked me how long it would take before the meds started to work, I told her, “Around a month and a half, I have to ramp up to a full dose, sometimes it takes longer than that.”

Two things happened over that period… my brain fog started to go away, the fatigue and pain started to lessen and I started to drop a pound a day, without any change to my activity or diet . The second thing that happened was… an escalation of what I hadn’t realized was, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and some physical violence. That next month and a half was horrific for me.

That’s where my life as a diagnosed “Major Depression” person started. But that’s not really what this is about, I’ve also started to worry about my memory.

My mother’s side of the family has  tradition of creating self-published books, with contributions from the extended family of my great-grandparents, Isak and Sanna Leland, who came to North America from Norway in the 1800s, they settled in North Dakota for some years, then sold their farm and took advantage of a government sponsored homesteading offer from the Canadian government to populate the southern part of the North West Territories, …which became Saskatchewan in 1902.

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There are literally thousands of Leland “cousins”. So there are family history books, beautifully bound books with pictures and histories, a family tree going back to the 1500s. A few family cookbooks, also beautifully bound and illustrated, I used to have these, I passed most of them to my daughter.

 The last book that was published was in 2002. The Great Grandparents were long gone, only a few of their children were left, and their children’s children and so on. There were memories of the great-grandparents as well as grandparents who were no longer with us, memories that would cease to exist when those who held them were gone.

This last effort was spear-headed by my aunt Esther, a grand daughter of Isak and Sanna, a wonderful lady who had an amazing life, still with us, she loved to write I used to get letters from her wherever I was, they contained news of family and also her thoughts and reflections on life, the world and everything. She’s still alive, as is my aunt Marie, the only two left from both pairs of grandparent’s offspring. They’re both in their 90s.
This is all about memories, we are our memories, without them we no longer have identity.

Life can be cruel, I think most of us have an understanding of this. In a tragic and ironic twist of fate. My aunt Esther began to have short-term memory issues. I think this started around the time this book of memories was being compiled. Whether she was aware of it or not, I think it’s what drove her to get this last book finished before it was too late, not only because of time running out for the older “cousins”, but because her own faculties were slowly slipping away.

She contacted me in 2000 to let me know about the book, I was primary care parent of my daughter at the time and ill. I never did write out my memories of my grand mother and family. The book was published without any of my memories.

Memories…

My aunt is healthy, physically, she may even hit the century mark, as a few of the cousins did, her mother, Ida, my grandmother, made it to her 99th year. Aunt Esther’s short term memory is now down to a handful of minutes. She’s in a care facility in Vancouver, where my aunt Marie can visit and spend time with her. She doesn’t write letters any more. Every so often she tells someone, “I’d like to go home now.”

She wrote the forward (see pic, above) for the book that I failed to contribute to, largely I suppose because of my mental and physical state. This forward sums up in a way, my motivation to write this, and more. I don’t want to die without some record of my being here. Sure there is music, buildings, an airport, things that represent an idea of legacy.
But, no memories.

I am tired, sad and lonely, these three things are like shadows growing longer and taller…  My own memory as well as my cognitive abilities are starting to become unreliable, this is the symptom of several different things I’m diagnosed with, one that leaves me with little time to ponder anything at all.

Whether the dead man at the bottom of the stairs tripped or was pushed, matters not to the dead man at the bottom of the stairs.

~ R. E.

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