Michael Peter Smith wrote a beautiful song in 1968 titled “The Dutchman.” I recently discovered it. It haunts me, this story of a man who has lost his memories and realities. I have come to love the song because it speaks to me of how others love us no matter how much or little we remember. Key to all this is that memories are often held together with love so that they are accessible over time.
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me
The song revolves around those two lines that are in the refrain. The song has been covered by a wide range of musicians, each bringing a different flavor to loving, nostalgic recipe of the lyrics. Watching the New Kingston Trio perform the song with Bob Shane singing with the aid of a canula somehow ties the messages of aging and patience ever more tightly. This is not a song review; it is a reminder of love and the importance of stories shared and remembered.
Find a way to move memories forward in time: write stories, send letters, create lyrics and songs, accompany photographs with recollections, share stories with family members and loved ones. Don’t be too quick to throw away what you have created or what you have received. Remember letters held together by adhesive tape? Love has a way of holding together those things that are not on paper.
No one has perfect recall, making the preserving and sharing of stories and memories all the more interesting. After I published my book Daddin’: The Verb of Being a Dad, my oldest son pointed out a correction to a story shared in the book. I am sure his correction was valid because the particular story was about him in college. I am sure that as I get older, more and more of my memories will need “editorial adjustments” delivered with love, not judgment.
So it is for all of us. Our memories are not perfect, neither the ones we hold nor those we feel to correct of others. At some point, those memories may disappear or become something that never really was. And that’s okay, because the mortar that can, and should, hold together all memories is love; of all the things we can forget, let’s not let that be one of them.