In “The September of My Years,” Frank Sinatra sang, “One day you turn around and it’s summer. Next day you turn around and it’s fall. And the springs and winters of a lifetime, whatever happened to them all?”

His sentiments connect me to my parents, Everett and Vera Gerard, who’ve spent 72 years together on the road of life. Dad is 93, and Mom is 92. They feel lonesome for the lifestyle, people and places they loved that aren’t there anymore. The stories that live behind their black-and-white photographs have grown dimmer. So, I help them open the curtains and windows and reconnect to the days when they raised seven children in Van Buren.

I collect memories for Mom and Dad, a hobby I started when they entered their retirement years. When I visit them, I bring an item that will trigger something from long ago. This usually unravels conversations, emotions and pleasure.

As Dad listened to the 1950 version of “Goodnight, Irene,” his eyes were far away and tender … “Vera, remember when we used to waltz to this song at the dance hall?” Hearing the lyrics to the 1946 song “Linda,” Mom said, in a warm reverie, “I used to love this song on the jukebox so much, I named you Linda.”

An article about drive-in theaters took Dad back to when he was a projectionist on summer weekends. He smiled broadly looking at a photo of himself as a belly gunner in World War II, even though he feels it contributed to his deafness.

An antique wooden shoeshine box filed with brushes and cans of shoe polish evoked memories of when my 10-year-old brother, Danny, was a shoeshine boy in the late 1950s. Downtown; amid cars honking and townsfolk walking up and down Main Street, he set up his shoeshine stand on the sidewalk in front of Rocky’s Luncheonette, calling, “Shoe shine, 10 cents!” Dad said with longing, “I can still smell french fries and hot dogs from the grill inside.”

My sister and I entertained them by whirling hula hoops around our aged hips. We laughed heartily, and reminisced about when she and I were winners in a hula hoop contest in the parking lot of the W.T. Grant store.

I’ve interviewed Mom and Dad on a tape recorder, asking how they used to celebrate holidays and ordinary days. Last Halloween, I brought them old-time penny candy.  “All that candy you bought every day at the corner store helped our dentist become rich filling your cavities,” Mom lamented.

I share my writings about potato picking, schools with nuns and priests, the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad station where Dad was a proud station agent and telegrapher, and about the colorful characters who lived in our town and neighborhoods.

Today, Mom and Dad may forget what they ate for lunch, but triggering memories continues to light up meaningful scenes from their lives that they carry around with them, tucked away in their hearts and souls.


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