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Memory

The last couple of days has been really, really difficult for my family, my sister and me in particular.

First, click here to read what’s been going on. My sister already wrote about it and I figure there’s no need for me to rehash it here.

Seriously. Go read that before continuing.

On our way home Monday, we were discussing how odd it is that M, our elderly loved one, has a hard time with her short-term memory (she asks the same questions over and over), but she can remember the strangest little things, like how her daughter-in-law always loved fruit compote, or this:

When I graduated from high school in 1986, there were nearly 600 students in my class. The ceremony was, as you can imagine, very long, and it was warm in the arena, and it was boring for just about everybody involved. Finally, the last few students made their way towards the stage to get their diplomas. After the very last “Z”, a good friend of mine named Charles, received the empty folder that was to hold his diploma later when he exchanged his rented cap and gown for it, he paused mid-stage for a moment before lifting up his graduation gown and showing the audience his shorts which had “The” on the front and “End” on the back.

Naturally our class as a whole thought this act was hysterical, and I venture to say that many of the families out in the audience did too. This was years (and years) before it became commonplace for senior graduation pranks that were more harmful or distracting (like dropping marbles on the stage). This was a harmless prank by the very last graduate in the class.

Much ado was made over Charles’ shorts, and in fact he was not given his diploma that day. There were newspaper articles about him, and he became a little bit of a legend where graduation was concerned.

M and her husband (who has been gone for five years), attended my high school graduation, and now, nearly twenty-six years later at the age of 82, M still talks about Charles.

She has questions about so many things but she remembers how that curly-topped young man flashed the audience at graduation with his “The End” shorts. On Monday, not too long after she found out that she would be moving into a nursing home soon, she talked about Charles and his shorts. When I arrived home, I immediately changed my Facebook profile picture to one of my favorite pictures of all time, a really nice one of me with Charles on Senior Field Day.

Even though the only conversation Charles and I have had since graduation was a Facebook chat about a year ago, I felt the need to tell him that his prank is a part of the fading memory of 82-year-old M. Last night I caught him on Facebook and asked for his number because I had something to tell him.

It’s a funny thing, just picking up the phone and calling someone you haven’t spoken with in twenty-five years. Hearing his familiar voice on the other end was thrilling and reassuring at the same time. I told him about M and I learned that, contrary to what I believed all these years, he did indeed receive his diploma–only it was about ten years later and it arrived at his parents’ house without any fanfare. They put it in a folder of his things and he found it by accident. I also learned that his mother bought him the shorts he wore on graduation day, knowing all about the plan. Charles was tickled to hear that M remembers his final bow at graduation.

We talked for only a few minutes before saying goodbye–he told me in his southern accent “please, don’t be a stranger!”–and as I hung up the phone I smiled, comforted by yet another example of how I don’t have to be in touch with friends on a regular basis to know that when I need them, they’re there.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Headless Mom April 4, 2012, 8:24 am

    That is so sweet! What a great prank!

    And yes, that transition is exhausting. xoxo

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 1:54 am

      SO exhausting. xoxo

  • Lisa - Hannemaniacs April 4, 2012, 8:39 am

    My grandfather had a stroke 10 years ago and needs round-the-clock nursing care, so has been in a nursing home since then. It’s so difficult to visit him there, but he has made friends and even married a woman he met there. It allows him social opportunities he wouldn’t have otherwise.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 1:56 am

      Thanks Lisa. This time of transition is just so scary because there are so many unknowns. I hope that M makes some new friends too.

  • Busy Mom April 4, 2012, 10:10 am

    I love that story!

    I’ve been there with the nursing home thing, there’s no good way to do it, I’m sorry. If it’s any consolation, my grandmother ended up being the belle of the ball there when she got settled.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 1:58 am

      Thanks. Had this been M before her stroke I’d be all, “Yes! She probably will also be the belle of the ball!” Now I just don’t know. To be honest, we’d be totally thrilled if, once she moves in, she eventually got to the point of feeling comfortable and a little happy. It’s so sad.

  • Cyndi Mullins April 4, 2012, 3:55 pm

    When the school superintendent retired, there was an article about him finally giving Charles his diploma in the local paper. My mom had clipped the article and stashed it in a box of stuff which I recently acquired when she moved into assisted living. I just came across that clipping again last week! It was quite a memorable event- not only for the “flashing”, but also for the reaction of the “scandalized” superintendent . (oh, puh-leez). And my mother, though not demented, occassionally asks me about that “cute, curly-headed boy from school”. Of course, I always know who she means! Way to go, Charles, for leaving lasting impressions!

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:01 am

      Apparently Charles is popular with the ladies!

  • Tara R. April 4, 2012, 4:35 pm

    it’s a difficult move for M I’m sure. My family went through that with my grandfather many years ago. I hope she is happy in her new home.

    In the photo, your friend Charles looks a lot like a young Tom Hanks.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:02 am

      Thanks Tara. We’re just at the beginning stages of all this and anticipate the move actually happening in a couple of months. I hope she’s eventually happy too.

  • Toni April 4, 2012, 6:00 pm

    I’m sorry you gals are going through such hard times this week. Super duper hugs. šŸ™

    Also, I always dread going down memory lane…I have such a tough time with the “passage of time.” I always cry. But then again, I’m always glad when I do. Kudos for sharing your memory and making contact with an old friend. šŸ™‚

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:05 am

      Thanks, Toni. It’s been an emotional week for sure. Also a thought-provoking one. This is a slice of life that people don’t usually think about or plan for.

      I’m a sentimental person and I love going down memory lane. I have gotten in touch with lots of old friends at different times in my life, and there hasn’t been one time when it was less than wonderful. šŸ™‚

  • Paula @ Frosted Fingers April 4, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Aww I’m crying, darn you! šŸ™‚ Great story šŸ™‚ So sorry about everything you have to deal with right now.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:06 am

      Sorry. šŸ™‚
      And thank you. We’ll get through, but it’s definitely not fun. xo

  • seashore April 4, 2012, 8:12 pm

    I am very sorry for the difficult time you are facing. I just wanted to say that story was very comforting to read. It is wonderful to be reminded that there are people in our lives who even if we don’t talk to, still care and are usually only a phone call away. Thank you for that.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:07 am

      Thanks for your kind words! šŸ™‚

  • Brandie April 5, 2012, 3:04 pm

    I love this story. Well, not the part about needing a nursing home – that can be so hard – but what a fun memory. And how awesome you were able to let him know she remembered it.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:07 am

      Thanks, Brandie! It was definitely fun to just pick up the phone and call him on a whim.

  • Liz April 5, 2012, 7:39 pm

    I am sorry that you and your family are going through this. But, I’m very glad for stories like this and your taking the opportunity to reconnect with your friend.

    • Melisa April 6, 2012, 2:08 am

      Thanks, Liz. You’re a good friend. xoxo

  • mrs4444 April 8, 2012, 6:23 pm

    That is so interesting (how the mind works). I’m sorry you and your sister are going through this. I read her post, too, but can’t figure out how to comment on it, so please give her a hug for me, will you ?

  • Patty at A Day in My NYC April 11, 2012, 9:16 am

    First I want to hug you and your sister because it reminds me of me and mine not too long ago. The search for the right place is torture but know that you are doing the right thing for her and as long as you visit her and stay present in her life you will surely enrich it. xoxo

    The graduation prank story…simply brilliant! šŸ™‚

    • Charles Zoghbi April 17, 2012, 5:03 pm

      Now that i know the back-story a little better, it has really put me in a very introspective place. Melissa, you and your sister and especially “M” are in my thoughts and prayers. To be a part of her memories is truly an honor. I’ll be here if needed. -Z

      • Melisa April 17, 2012, 5:08 pm

        Thanks for visiting my blog and reading the story, Charles. šŸ™‚ It was so nice to talk to you on the phone! šŸ™‚ xo