Category Archives: Memories Project notes

A time to listen


In the post-caregiving phase of life, we can feel pulled in opposite directions. There is often a natural response to retreat from the outer world and try to process all that we’ve been through. As time marches on, we may feel the call to help other caregivers, and that means opening ourselves up to listening to other people’s experiences.

Over the last several years, I have followed many other caregivers via blogs and have been a virtual witness to their highs and lows. I am a member of a caregiver Facebook group and admittedly sometimes I scroll past the heartbreaking posts because there is only so much I can take. I would love to be able to help each and every one, but of course that’s impossible.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an in-person support group at Amy’s Place for dementia caregivers, and it was a moving experience. I was there in part to hand out caregiver gift bags that are part of my Respite Care Share project, but my most important action that night was simply listening.

It was disheartening to hear that many of the issues I encountered with my father’s care are still going on today, five years later. Some of the caregiver’s stories brought back painful memories. But there was a power in sharing stories, exchanging tips and advice, and offering moral support.

Family caregivers take on so much, but often find few opportunities to vent. Whether you attend a formal support group or just offer a sympathetic ear to a friend or family member, make an effort to be a listener on a regular basis. It can mean the world of difference to those going through difficult times.


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Merry Christmas memories

I hope everyone has a peaceful, love-filled holiday. Make those moments count with those who mean the most to you.


For those of us dealing with loss, the holiday season is bittersweet. This year, I bought a tabletop tree, and decorated it with Christmas ornaments from my childhood. My family always had a tabletop tree, because we lived in an apartment that didn’t have room for a big tree.

It didn’t matter to me that the tree was small and fake, I loved the magic of Christmas as a child. My parents worked hard to make the holidays special for me, and I am grateful I have those happy memories.

Happy holidays to all. Stay warm and safe, and enjoy the precious moments with loved ones.


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Glimpses of yesteryear

Many of us become nostalgic from time to time, especially as we grow older or face uncertain periods of life. High school and even college may seem like a distant memory to many of us, but it can be interesting to flip through a yearbook or photo album and remember the person you once were.

I have no desire to return to those days, but when sent an email saying it had made available more yearbooks in their collection, I was curious to see if I could find my mother’s yearbook. While I have all of my mother’s school photos because she painstakingly took good care of them, I don’t have her yearbooks.

Mom school

Unfortunately, there were no yearbooks available for her years, but there was one available for 1950, just before she would have been in high school. I flipped through the yearbook in its entirety, as it was a fascinating snapshot to a different place and time. I recognized the names of some of the teachers, as my mom had told me stories about them over the years. I got to see photos of the school building itself, and places inside the school, such as the cafeteria.

It was interesting to read about the different groups that were popular in school back then, such as Future Homemakers of America and Future Farmers of America. For many students of that time period, education would end with high school, as they would soon marry, have children and the husband would work while the wife cared for the family at home. How much the world would change in a 20-year span.

I wondered about some of those kids, the valedictorian and the ones picked most popular, most athletic and most courteous. What became of their lives? What became of their dreams and aspirations?

My mother’s life did not evolve in such a typical fashion. She left her hometown, became a working woman, then went into the Navy, and didn’t marry and have a child until her mid-thirties.

Mom never made it to a class reunion, but for the most part, I think she would have been proud of the woman she became and what she accomplished.

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2013 in review: So much gratitude

I want to kick off 2014 with a show of gratitude for my fellow bloggers who are family caregivers. It is a tough road to travel but all of you sharing your personal joys and struggles have made me more enlightened.

I know 2013 was a rough year for many of you. Jackie, who writes the “Quilt of Missing Memories” blog just lost her husband, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s. I know how difficult it is to lose a loved one so close to the holidays. She writes so beautifully and heartfelt about her family’s journey with this terrible disease. Her perspective challenges me to have a more positive outlook even in the face of adversity.

holding hands

Kay who writes the Dealing with Dementia blog is a caregiver for both of her parents who suffer from dementia. She lost her father suddenly this year. She has had to grapple with her own grief while trying to support her mother who is struggling with her declining mental state in the assisted living facility. Kay offers great insight into dementia and caregiving and stays on tops of trends and studies that can aid us as dementia caregivers.

Terry, who writes so faithfully on her “terry1954” blog provides loving home care for her brother Al, who suffers from Multiple System Atrophy. Al’s health declined in 2013, and it appears his time in this world may be drawing to a close. Through it all, Terry has been the loyal and loving sister, who doesn’t shy away from discussing how difficult being a family caregiver is, both physically and emotionally. She has developed a loyal and supportive blog readership that is so well-deserved. I admire her strength and courage.

I virtually cheered Jack from Across the Land 2013 who ran across the country in 2013 to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. He dealt quite well with extreme weather and other obstacles with his plucky, positive attitude.

I look forward to following the new blog project from Sally who writes the “Hot Dogs and Marmalade” blog. The new blog is called, “One Month at a Time” and will feature a new theme each month.

I follow so many wonderful bloggers that I simply cannot list them all here.I just wanted to mention a few who particularly inspired me or moved me over the last year. Thank you for sharing your personal journeys online. We can learn so much from those we may never meet in person.

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What The Memories Project is about


Dad and I at the La Villa Assisted Living facility in Roswell, NM in March 2011.

My father, Patrick Johnston, passed away December 20, 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 79 years old and suffered from dementia. The last few years were extremely difficult for him and his family. I am his only child, and my parents’ 40th anniversary was less than a month before he passed away. His departure, while still sad, also was marked with relief, as over the final year of his life, he suffered more than was necessary.

As I sift through the various stages of grief, what stands out the most are the memories of my father, both good and bad. There are also things I would like to know, and I wish I had asked him while he still had his memory, but alas, it was too late for that even long before he died.

The Memories Project is my tribute to my father. I will post daily memories of my father here over the next year. Sometimes it may be just a snippet, other times a longer entry. A memory may be awakened by something I saw or heard that particular day. It may be a song lyric, or a photograph. I want to collect all of the memories and stories I remember about my dad, preserve them and share them with anyone who’s interested in reading them.

I hope The Memories Project serves as inspiration for others to gather and preserve memories and stories of their loved ones now, because you never know when it will be too late.

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