When Leonard Cohen droned out these words back in 1988 on his “I’m Your Man” LP, I’m sure I welcomed them with my usual fervour for this great artist. Besides striking an emotional chord, I appreciated the darker irony and humour of this piece. What I’m sure I didn’t appreciate was how prophetic the title would turn out to be.
You see, Parkinson’s – as well as the aging process in general I’m sure – has begun to rob me of my memory. Not at this stage as emphatically perhaps as Alzheimer’s Disease but a theft all the same. While I experience some short term memory loss for relatively minor everyday things (did I complete that form? where did I put that book? what month was that appointment?), I am frequently reminded of events or people from my past whom I had forgotten. Activities that not only had I forgotten about but that I had absolutely no recollection of! Not one iota. Nothing! It’s pretty alarming.
It can also be invigorating – stoking the embers of memory or, as in a recent case, relighting an otherwise comatose fire. This is what happened with me.
Several weeks ago, I received a standard routine notice from the host site of this blog (wordpress) advising me that I had received a comment that needed to be “moderated”. Nothing unusual about that. I first checked the name of the person whom had sent the comment and, while the name had some passing familiarity, I couldn’t make a connection. It was bit odd that the comment was on one of my first blogs going back some 3 years ago. Odd, but not all that strange.
The comment began by quoting a line from my own blog, and then reeled out a story that, upon first blush, made me think “What the hell is this about?!. What does any of this have to do with living with Parkinson’s?” Here’s what was written:
“A chance for our divergent paths to once again cross. A chance, for those who have paused to wonder “what ever happened to…” to perhaps fill in some blanks.”
Once upon a time, there was a residence in a university in Ontario. Two young ‘uns lived there, with their very own window. A simple window. The window overlooked a space. Through that space, thousands passed each day. Thousands upon thousands of young minds. Eager to think. Eager to be engaged, in a time before Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and…
And one of the young ‘uns decided to use that window. For good. For thought. To challenge. To inspire. To poke, prod, evoke and emote. He put words up in the on a window. Words read by the thousands. Words that caused people to think, to laugh, to love, to celebrate. For an entire year.
“Whatever happened to” the young ‘uns? One… became a teacher. An inspirer-er. A shaper of minds — as the words on the window (and in the newspaper he published) foretold he would. The other… well… went West. To seek fortune and fame and freedom. And mountains. Oh, mountains. And he travelled the world for his career, always remembering that a few words on a window always matter.
But he never forgot his friend who put the words up.
I read it again. Parts of it began to resonate with me. Residence life during first year university…a shared window…putting up letters in a window with messages to passers-by. Suddenly, as if awoken from a stupor, it all came back to me. Images of my first year at McMaster University and my then roommate who I have not seen in 40 years! I was the one putting words up in the window (our only window which we shared!). He was the patient and all too tolerant roommate who would go on to, as he describes it, be the one to travel the world.
This new-found memory brought back the fun I had at the time composing messages on our window and the people I would meet who would comment on it. It reminded me of the arts newspaper I tried to establish with a few others that took inspiration for it’s name from this very act – “Window”. It reminded me of creative, energetic and frenetic times. It reminded me of the thoughtful roommate I had at that time. A roommate, to and for whom, I was likely not as thoughtful.
I am learning to live with many of the challenges presented by PD. Yet, losing memory of such pleasant and soulful times, is troubling. And here comes Derek: a roommate kind enough to open a window and let in a light from that past; to remind me.
That’s one moment that I’ll now never forget (so long as I can just remember what 🙂 )