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Memories Are All That's Left

by BJ Niktabe (Age: 59)
copyright 05-12-2006

Age Rating: 7 +

Where did my life go??? What makes time go by so fast? One minute, I'm a teenager, wondering when I'll ever become an adult. The next thing I know, I'm getting mighty close to fifty! I feel like my head is spinning from the whirlwind of life! So much seems to just pass me by. I reach out to grab hold of things, and my hand comes back to me with only memories. That's all we're left with, when all is said and done. I'd like to share some of mine...

Memories...there are so many to choose from. I'm an animal lover, so I'll start with Ginger. She was my late father's beloved cocker spaniel. She was a sweet dog who loved her daddy. We would tease her and say "My daddy," and she would bark and jump on us. She loved dinner time, when Dad would add some frozen concoction from a plain white container to her dry food, before adding hot water. I believe it was something they added to stuffing for flavor. He was an executive chef at Northwestern University's Sargeant Hall in Evanston, Illinois, and would bring this home from work. She developed several tumors and eventually had to be put down, but she led a long life, was dearly loved, and is missed to this day.

My father could make the best prime rib on this planet! Just ask any of the Northwestern football players that he used to cook for! I also remember the prime rib bones that he would bring home. We all considered that a treat better than ice cream! And I know that Ginger appreciated them just as much as we did! I remember his chicken soup, too. No one could make chicken soup like his...or so I thought. I worked with a Filipino woman for a time, who asked me once if I had ever had Filipino food. I said no, and she invited me to a Filipino restaurant. The meal was served family style, and one of the dishes she ordered was soup. I marveled at how the chicken was put in the soup, bones and all, just like my dad made it. But an even nicer surprise was the taste of ginger root. It was like my dad had made this soup himself! Oh, the was like coming home....*sigh.*

When I was in school, I would sometimes ask him the meaning of a word. His response was always the same, "Look it up in the dictionary." He had this light brown dictionary. The edges of the pages were gold. The little indentations at the beginning of each letter made it easier to find what you were looking for. He often had that book on the table in front of him. I now have that book. Inside is an article from a newspaper with a list of U.S. presidents and the terms they served. He added the names and years of presidents that served after the printing. I've kept on with that list.

I sometimes think about his vegetable garden, and the different plants that grew there over time. I remember the fresh mint. I would sometimes pick off a leaf and roll it back and forth between my thumb and forefinger, just to inhale the fresh mint aroma...I can almost smell it now. There were strawberry plants that grew along the front of the garage, the little white flowers with the yellow centers, the red juicy fruits that followed. There was rhubarb that grew along the fence, big green leafy plants with red stalks. I never cared for the strawberry rhubarb desert that he made, but I loved the smell of it.

Onions were always plentiful in the garden. Dad would wash them off, and while they were still wet, he would dip them in salt and take a bite! The tomatoes he grew were so tasty, as well as the green beans. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have that garden right now...or at least a sweet ear of corn or a juicy red strawberry from it!! *sigh*

My father passed away twelve years ago. My last memory of him was two nights before his death. There was a family Christmas party, and I was lucky enough to have been the one to drive him to and from the party. None of my siblings were fortunate enough to have been at the party that day, so I consider myself extremely lucky. I'm the last of my family to see him alive, the last to hug and kiss him goodnight. I have the last memories of him, and for that I am grateful.

Memories are an important part of life. They are what shapes us into the people we are today. It's important to hold onto them, for to lose any of them would be to lose a part of ourselves. Some of them may be unpleasant, but they are just as important. We learn a lot (sometimes the hard way) from our painful memories. Heck, I learned it's not smart to crash a motorcycle! Now THAT was painful, but that story is for another day.

Hold on to all of your memories, good and bad. Cherish them. Take them out now and then so they remain fresh in your mind. I don't know who I would be without mine, and I don't want to find out!

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        02-19-2007     Cindy Mitchell        

How true-we become the sum of our memories and it is important to cherish the special people and friends that provide those memories. It is a form of respect and the gift of eternity to do so. Well written-Bravo.

        02-11-2007     Leigh Gilholm Fisher        

This is a great piece! I liked reading about peoples' pasts, I find it truly fascinating how different lives are varying on the person, family, location, all that stuff! We all know about the differences, but never really heard a person who experiences it talking about it! Anyway, my parents are gardeners too, and when we all work on tomato sauce it's absolutely heavenly! I like to cook, though I never say that to anybody since I like the image I create saying I'm an author into Japanese music, books, video games, and can speak a bit of the language, gets good grades, works out daily, but can't cook for the life of me. I don't know why but being able to cook kinda ruins the image being created, no? Maybe I'm just nutty! It runs in my family, hyperactivity and cheerfulness. :) As dose being a wise @$$, as I learned since I started working for my grandmother!

Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly all memories make us who we are. The good and the bad are all important, who knows who we'd be without them? I doubt I'd of ever picked up a pen (or opened a Word Processor on a PC, really...) if I hadn't gone through a few painful experiences. Speaking of crashing, it's also unpleasant to fall off a shooter down a twenty-foot (or more) hill in Florida and skid for two or three feet! Especially when you have your mother and neighbor kid younger than you getting all worried...thank you Neosporin, you healed me in a week due to over-application! Anyway, sorry for getting random, but it looks everybody did! One of our two cats, Gray Davis, only sits on my father's lap. She quite likes the new video game systems, no darndable;e cord to get in her way when he plays Madden. :) Great work, thanks for entering my contest, and keep writing!

Leigh of the Commenting Crusaders
*holds up sword and shield* To the workshops! Must achieve the 2000 comment mark this year! 870 to go...

        01-02-2007     Chessie Hodge        

It's true that memories make us who we are. I enjoyed what you shared and could relate to parts of it very well. I was surprised because my grandmother has a dictionary very similar to the one you described! This is a wonderful story and it reminds us all to hang on to what is important to us.

        10-06-2006     Brian Dickenson        

Thank you BJ for allowing us to share a slice of your life. It was very moving, also somewhat sad, but true to life.
Memories are all we are at the end, we just hope that we are remembered, if we are we are never truly dead.
Your dad and I have a lot in common. At one time I had a restaurant and did all of the cooking.
Animals have always been a part of my life, how anyone could not like them is beyond me. I just feel sorry for them. They know not what they miss.
I always take lots of photographs, with all the details on the back. There is nothing to compare when one wants to evoke times past.
Keep writing your story, we will read it.

        09-06-2006     Nancy Pawley        

BJ, what wonderful memories you conjure up. Remembering the good, the bad, and the ugly helps us cope with today's and tomorrow's problems. Wonderful write.

        08-25-2006     Richard Reed Jr        

P. S. I have had three English cocker spaniels
in my life; loved them all as much as I loved
anything or anybody.

        08-25-2006     Richard Reed Jr        

I must also add my "thank you". This was a moving and real "down to earth" story. As most of what I consider the high-lights of my life have faded away because of my illness, this brought back bittersweet memories to me. Your wonderful piece
was written in a very uplifting way. I am going to smile today because of you.

Thanks BJ,


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