In the middle of lunch, my father looked into my eyes and asked who I was. This question stopped me in my tracks. For a moment, I forgot my father’s illness. Instead, I remembered that he was responsible for naming me.
My father named me in honor of Lily Pons, his favorite American singer. Papi’s melodious voice taught me to love music. After our family moved from Chicago to Puerto Rico, he serenaded us with Latin American songs known as boleros.
“Who are you?” My father asked again. His tentative voice awakened me from my reverie. Since my mother’s death, I had witnessed Papi’s progressive forgetfulness, confusion, and worst of all, lack of interest. In the midst of fear and grief, I panicked. My future looked bleak. Would I, too, forget who I am?
Fright turned into action. Consequently, I decided to preserve my memory. In this way, I armed myself with the latest research in aging. I engaged in physical exercise and made a commitment to meditate daily. Moreover, I added supplements to my diet, stabilized my sleep hygiene (or at least, I tried), and reconnected with old friends (Facebook was great for this). I even managed to try some cognitive enhancing exercises (yes, research shows that we can grow new neuronal connections).
As I attempted to enhance my brain, I found Mnemosyne—or, as the proverbial saying goes, she found me. The Greek goddess of memory (actually a Titaness), Mnemosyne is the mother of nine muses including poetry, music, dance, history, astronomy, tragedy, and comedy, among others. It seems that before modern research on aging, ancient Greeks knew that creative activities, as well as studying history and star gazing, helps to preserve our memory.
My father still has a beautiful voice and continues to love singing. When I visit him I ask him about his favorite songs. Mnemosyne accompanies him while he sings. Even though he does not remember who I am, the words of old boleros spring to his tongue---a lullaby to memory.
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