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A few thoughts on building memories

NIAGARA, Wis. — As I age, I find myself intrigued with how our minds work in regard to forming memories. Why is it that I can remember so many events and people from my childhood so vividly, and yet cannot remember a detail from last week? And I now lose my train of thought so easily. If my husband does not let me finish a sentence or tell him something until he is done with his thought, mine has left my brain — like Elvis leaving the building — and is lost for at least an hour. Neither one of us is ever far from a pen and scratch pad. I leave myself much better written reminders; they are complete thoughts and are detailed enough to be of future use. I cannot tell you how often I find notes in my husband’s handwriting that are simply a phone number, or a date or a time and nothing else. Sometimes it is enough for him to remember the rest, but we certainly cannot depend upon that being the case!

I recently came across a Monday Morning Memo that was written by Roy H. Williams back in 2019. It is titled “Happy Yesterday” and tells the story of how he mistakenly thought he heard a grocery store checker wish him a “happy yesterday.” He was puzzled, so simply smiled and left with his groceries. Once in the parking lot, he realized the checker had said, “Happy rest of your day!” That, naturally, got him to wondering if we could, in fact, choose to have a happy yesterday. He did some research, and I share with you the results.

“Strangely, we can. According to a number of studies published since 2012, we don’t really remember the events in our lives. We remember only our last memory of those events. Events in our memories alter and morph with each retrieval until, finally, we are ‘remembering’ things that never really happened.

“The first of these studies was conducted at Northwestern University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience. On Sept. 19, 2012, journalist Marla Paul wrote: ‘Remember the telephone game where people take turns whispering a message into the ear of the next person in line? By the time the last person speaks it out loud, the message has radically changed. It’s been altered with each retelling. Turns out your memory is a lot like the telephone game. Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time.’ Postdoctoral fellow, Donna Bridge, commented, saying: ‘A memory is not simply an image produced by time-traveling back to the original event; your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.’

“In a subsequent article in Psychology Today, we read: ‘Not only are our memories faulty, our memories change each time they are recalled. What we recall is only a facsimile of things gone by. Memories are malleable constructs that are reconstructed with each recall. What we remember changes each time we recall the event. The slightly changed memory is now embedded as ‘real’ only to be reconstructed with the next recall. Memory isn’t like a file in our brain, but more like a story that is edited every time we tell it. We attach emotional details with each re-telling. Not only do we alter the story, we alter our feelings about it.’

“We unconsciously choose to alter emotional details and feelings for better, or for worse; to make ourselves happy or more miserable. I vote for remembering happiness. So, have a happy yesterday! The simple, scientific truth is that you colorize events each and every time you recall them. I’m merely suggesting that you consider the colors you are choosing. Will they be dark, sad, angry colors? Or will they be warm and happy ones?”

Author, Gunter Grass, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999, seems to agree with science when he writes the following in his autobiography, “Peeling the Onion”: “Memory likes to play hide-and-seek, to crawl away. It tends to hold forth, to dress up, often needlessly. Memory contradicts itself; pedant that it is, it will have its way.”

I know that I have quite a blend of memories from my own growing-up years, and many of them from when I was very young. Memories of deep sadness or those that remind me of embarrassing moments seem to linger the longest. But I have noticed that I have been able to come to terms with most of them. Those that lingered longest have, in fact, become woven into the person I eventually became as an adult. They represent hurdles to be overcome, bridges to cross, and adversities which called for compensations that molded my personality. So, some memories, indeed, are transformative in that way.

Of course, I have many pleasant memories as well — as we all do by this age — that I would not trade for all the tea in China. Memories of my childhood on my grandparent’s farm and of visits to the “shack” that was owned by my aunt and uncle top the list. I enjoy recalling my college years, my dating years with my eventual husband, funny things my children said and did growing up, and special times with dear friends.

Despite our aging brain, we can still build memories for the future. Two other quotations I especially like address this fact. The first is: “Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” This requires living in the moment and savoring a part of each day that brings us joy. It is important to be aware of our feelings as we move throughout our day and pay attention to what makes us laugh or brings us comfort.

The second quotation that spoke to me recently was, “Find what brings you joy and go there.” Life is so complex these days, and time flies by so quickly. Now that I am retired, I allow myself the time to simply “soak in the moment.” I no longer chase the clock through the day; it’s one of the best parts of retirement. My husband and I linger over breakfast doing our crosswords and word finds. And we stretch lunch over an hour as we soak up the sun on our deck and listen and watch the birds in the neighborhood trees. I frequently visit the boat landing in Niagara and just watch the river go by while the breeze blows through the car windows.

You see, I am not wasting time. I am simply busy building memories for later … for when the years have left me with only the memories of today’s small adventures as I watch from a chair by the window like my mother and grandmother did before me.

——

NURSING HOMES/

SENIOR LIVING FACILITIES

Freeman Nursing and Rehabilitation Community

906-774-1530

Freeman’s is in its second week of small group activities. Visitation is currently being allowed twice weekly with screening and COVID-19 testing required before entering the building. All precautions are still being taken to protect residents. Everyone has adjusted to this new normal; however, they are all looking forward to a great get-together when it is safe to do so.

Iron County Medical Care Facility

906-874-1501

Sunday: Morning room visits; exercise; storytelling; afternoon room visits.

Monday: Morning room visits; bingo; resident council meeting; afternoon room visits.

Tuesday: Morning room visits, bowling; trivia, afternoon room visits.

Wednesday: Morning room visits; bingo; travel film; afternoon visits.

Thursday: Morning room visits; church with Pastor Vicky – channel 99.1 at 10 a.m.; traveling happy hour; afternoon room visits.

Friday: Morning room visits; wine tasting; current events; afternoon room visits.

Saturday: Word game packet; morning room visits; “Name That Tune”; afternoon room visits, United Lutheran Church on radio 99.5 at 4 p.m.

Manor Care

906-774-4805

Limited visitation has resumed for family and friends. Appointments must be made in advance by calling the center.

Maryhill Manor

715-251-3172

Scheduled visits are being allowed in the facility’s living room. Call ahead to reserve. The weekly happy hour and bingo have resumed for residents only.

Golden Living Center

Florence, Wis.

715-528-4833

Visitation is allowed in designated areas only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Each visit is limited to 30 minutes and must be scheduled in advance. All visitors will be subject to health screening before entering the facility. Residents have resumed some small group activities.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

906-774-5158

Limited visitation has resumed in resident apartments only.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility

Powers

906-497-5244

No information was available at this time.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Meatballs, mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts and lettuce.

Wednesday: Polish sausage, mashed potatoes, corn and tomatoes.

Thursday: Lasagna, wax beans, lettuce and garlic bread.

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Call for home delivery or a to-go box. Menu for the week —

Monday: Ham, scalloped potatoes and chef’s choice vegetable.

Tuesday: Fish sticks, potatoes and corn.

Wednesday: Burritos.

Thursday: Pork roast sandwich, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Bacon cheeseburger, tater tots and cream corn.

Tuesday: Polish sausage, sauerkraut, rice and wax beans.

Wednesday: Chicken and rice soup, side salad, string cheese and fruit yogurt.

Thursday: Meat ravioli, breadstick and Italian blend vegetables.

Friday: Smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice or no beverage.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Ravioli, garlic bread and green beans.

Tuesday: Fish sticks or Salisbury steak, french fries, baked beans and salad.

Wednesday: Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and California blend vegetables.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chicken and rice vegetable soup, toasted cheese sandwich, fruit and orange juice.

Tuesday: Cook’s choice — entrée, vegetables and fruit.

Wednesday: Pasties, coleslaw, fruit and magic cookie bars.

Thursday: Porcupine meatballs, mashed potatoes, squash and fruit.

Friday: Chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, dark green salad, western baked beans and fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Cheese omelets, hash brown potatoes, sausage and fruit.

Tuesday: Mushroom Swiss burger, french fries, wax beans and fruit.

Wednesday: Pizza, three-bean salad, fruit.

Thursday: Open-faced turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and dessert.

All meals include 8 ounces of skim milk or juice.

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask.

Menu for the week —

Monday: Chicken pot pie, mixed vegetables and biscuit.

Tuesday: Beef tips over noodles, peas and carrots.

Wednesday: Pork chop suey, rice and Oriental vegetables.

Thursday: Chicken parmesan over penne pasta and glazed carrots.

All meals include milk, juice, fruit, bread and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Beef tips and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and peaches.

Wednesday: Chili, carrots, cornbread and pears.

Thursday: Pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables and apple slices with cinnamon.

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.

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