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cookieman's avatar

Could you share an experience or event in your life where you are now the only person left who remembers it?

Asked by cookieman (34873points) September 28th, 2012 from iPhone

The memory of many of our experiences (good, bad, or otherwise) is often enriched because we shared that moment with someone else.

But what happens when you’re the only one left who remembers them?

Fun, interesting, sometimes scary times with my grandparents, an aunt, my father – experienced only by us, and they’re all (long) gone now.

These experiences are now only stories in my head, and I’m starting to wonder how accurately I remember them or if they even have any value anymore.

Has this happened to you? What do you do with these memories? Can you share one of them?

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24 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

The first thing that came to mind was seeing my father receive his Ph.D. from Boston University. He shared the platform with a young Martin Luther King, Jr., who received his Ph.D. from B.U. that night, and John Kennedy, who was awarded an honorary doctorate. Other people remember them, but I remember sitting with my mother and seeing my father hooded onstage. To me he was the only important person there. Both my parents are gone now.

There is actually a large number of memories of which I am now the sole custodian, memories involving my parents and/or grandparents. Being the eldest child, I was a part of many occasions and experiences that my younger siblings weren’t there for or don’t recall.

gailcalled's avatar

I am the oldest living person on my father’s side of the family and have powerful and unique memories of my grandparents and my four uncles, starting with WWII.

However, both my grandfathers were thoughtful enough to write their autobiographies with dates and photos. I am, perforce, the family genealogist and have been able to discover wonderful stories and events that I have shared with my younger cousins.

Here is the house that I can walk through in my dreams…Bronx c. 1944. Aerial view Ground view

My paternal grandfather, King the gentle giant, and me. c. 1942 here

The dollhouse that my grandfather built for me

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Wow. That question got me. It reminds me of growing up. We had a dairy farm and I was the oldest male. I have all kinds of memories of doing the work with my father, grandfather, grandmother (yeah she worked right next to my grandfather), and during summers my uncle. He was going to college to be a teacher. Every one of them is gone now. My father loved to play practical jokes. I’d be working in the barn addition, and water would hit my neck from behind. it was my father, squirting me with a clean syringe from a side window grinning from ear to ear. My uncle was a good athlete. We’d play basketball between wagons of hay we were unloading. He had feet on me, but he’d let me score on him if I pushed it hard. I have some great memories growing up.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Another ‘Wow!’ vote for this question. Yes, there are personal memories that only I have because the one person I shared them with is no longer living. What is eerie is that I passed along one of those memories today. My sister and I were discussing the aging factor, and I told her about how our much older sister, no longer living, provided a biological fact about aging that grossed me out at the time.

Other than situations where it is a one-on-one type, surely there are others that remember it from their own perspective.

This question has now inspired me. There is an upcoming family gathering in late October. As the host, it would be fascinating to share some personal events and stories with those of us that can carry the stories on to the next generation.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Traveling with my Mom and Dad, we had my Grand-uncle with us in my Dad’s 1939 Ford driving through the Mojave desert it was at least 100* F.
My Mom looked to my Grand-uncle and asked him if want to roll up his sleeves on his flannel shirt. When he rolled them up, he had “long-johns” under the shirt.
I think he had a circulation problem. LOL

blueiiznh's avatar

I have many adventures that I shared with my Father. He would take me on many trek’s that my sisters or younger brothers did not go on.
I have many wonderful memories that I now am the only one to know first hand since his passing this past January. Fishing and canoe trips in lakes of Northern Minnesota, caving and rock hunting along Superior.
The most awe inspiring memory that lives on was the ability to explore my Great Great Grand Fathers house with him.
I simply can’t pass on the visions and impact of those adventures. They are the underlyng reason why I love nature and architecture.

Dsg's avatar

@blueiiznh Wow! I absolutely love the pics of the sea caves! Very beautiful!! The pictures look like it would be so amazing to visit and explore. You are so lucky to have had those special times with your Dad. Those are definitely memories to keep dear to your heart forever. Your Great Great Grand Dad’s house was amazing! The architecture is so different and love the dark wood. Thank you for sharing.

wonderingwhy's avatar

There are stories. Things done, that I now remember, with people who are since dead, between just them and myself. I’m selfish with stories like that. I don’t know why exactly, but somehow, speaking them aloud would be letting them go. As if the light would cause them to ash and fall away. In a way I see myself in those memories, perhaps that’s the part I don’t want to lose. A thread runs through them forced taunt by idiosyncratic urgency; a pact unto myself as the only one left to remember them through having lived them. Curious.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

@blueiiznh beautiful pictures.

There has not just been one experience for me. There has been many. I live in memories. But one that I can share that is memorable is sitting with my blind husband (passed away now) at the airport a few days before the airshow started while he explained to me each overhead airplane in detail. Sometime’s remembering is all we’ve got.

Dsg's avatar

I have been very lucky in that no one dear to me has died. I try and remember all the silly, special things that create memories now and forever. I try to show everyone that I love, just how important they are to me. I try and appreciate the good and the bad times with my loved ones. I don’t hold grudges and l try to love unconditionally. Thank you all for sharing your memories. It has once again shown me how important it is to let everyone that you love know they are special. :)

cookieman's avatar

These are great recollections. Thank you. Keep ‘em coming.

Okay, I’ll share one.
When I was a kid, my father worked days and my mother nights. When I was around eight, my father would get phone calls from his mother, secretly pleading with him to find his older brother. As my mother was working, my father would take me with him as we went from bar to bar looking for my uncle. We’d eventually find him and I’d watch as my father tried to talk coax him off the stool with the promise of a few nips.

I’d sit in the backseat of our red barracuda, listening to him talk ragtime while my father drove him home.

We’d get home before my mother did and my father would make me promise to not tell my mother.

I never did tell her of our nighttime excursions and in a few years mom would be working days and my uncle would be dead. Then my grandmother and later dad.

Now it’s just me with this memory.

Coloma's avatar

My story does not involve people, it involves myself and my now, long gone horse from my teens and early twenties, “Sugar”.
Sugar was a beautiful white/gray Arabian/quarter horse cross mare. She was my constant companion and we went on daily long rides to a local lake in the summer that bordered a remote property I lived on. We would ride for miles and miles and swim together in the lake.

One late afternoon near sunset we went for our bareback ride down to the lake and I forgot to bring a halter so I slipped her bridle off around her neck ( you NEVER tie a horse with a bit in their mouth by their bridle, if they spook they tear their mouth up something awful. Forget the cowboy movies ) and tied the reins to a large fallen tree where she could graze while I swam.
After I came out of the lake I saw she had tangled herself around the tree and was on her knees. Little did I suspect until I got to her that she was strangling from winding the reins so tightly around the log that she garroted herself on the twisted headstall!

She was going down and could not breathe!
I tried my best to unbuckle the headstall but it was, literally, embedded in her swelling throat and she was thrashing around in a panic.
I was a mile from the house, all up hill and I RAN the entire way barefoot in my bikini over very rough terrain. It seemed to take hours and since I lived alone at the time there was nobody around to help me.

A knife was too dangerous so I grabbed a pair of serrated garden scissors and ran back to the lake. By this time she was almost unconscious and I was able to saw and hack away at the leather until the bridle finally was cut. She was lying on her side with her eyes closed barely breathing and I thought for sure she was going to die. It was the most horrible moment of my life!

After a few minutes she came to and got to her feet shakiliy. My poor baby! We walked home very slowly and I treated an abrasion on her throat and made her a nice bran mash and tons of treats. She died of natural cause at age 27 and I can still tear up thinking about that horrible day.

YARNLADY's avatar

As a child, my bother and sister and I shared nearly every experience. They are both still living, and I’m sure they remember the major events.

One exception would be when Santa Claus visited me in the hospital. The surgeon had bothched my appendix operation, and most people thought I would probably not live to see my next birthday, which is five weeks after Christmas. Santa brought a toy dog that I had been saving my allowance for for months.

I really treasured that toy, and kept it for many, many years afterwards.

Sunny2's avatar

I spent the summer with my grandmother between Jr and Sr year in college. She had a canary who molted and did not sing during that period. As her feathers grew back, the canary began to practice an entirely new song. It repeated one phrase over and over; then would add another phrase and practice the two together. By the time I went back home, the bird had a string of phrases it would sing as one song. It was nothing like the song she sang before molting and was fascinating to my grandmother and me.

zenvelo's avatar

When I was 15 my dad took me skiing for the day up in the Sierras. We left the Bay Area about 5:30 for a three hour drive to the mountains. While we were going along we heard a “wear your seat belts” public service ad, and my dad told me to put mine on. We talked about the need to wear them, and I’ve pretty much worn them since. That was in 1970.

Kayak8's avatar

I have tons of family experiences that are responsive to this question, but when I initially read the question, I could only think about all the young men and women I sat with as they died of AIDS without any family around. We would talk, they would share hopes and dreams until they weren’t talking anymore. I listened to people breathing and then failing to take the next breath. I slept on floors next to beds and slept in beds next to people, holding hands and spooning what was often little more than bones. These are some of my hardest and best memories.

thorninmud's avatar

My Dad was one of those guys who was nearly impossible to connect to on an emotional level. His upbringing in the Ozark foothills, coaxing crops from sandstone, had forged him into a workhorse with little use for intimacy.

My childhood summers often featured an 8-hour trek from our city back up into that other world of red dust, ticks, snuff and propane tanks. It was on one of those, when I was about 12, that my Dad asked if I wanted to go on a walk with him.

We started along the dirt road, but soon struck off through fields, threading our bodies through one barbed-wire fence after another. This was a largely wordless journey, but I began to understand that this was my Dad’s way of letting me into his soul, the only way he could. We were traversing the landscape that had shaped him.

As hours went by I lost all sense of direction, but my Dad was navigating by some deep memory. Our path had no discernible relationship to any point of reference that I could see, but suddenly we would emerge at a waterfall, an abandoned cemetery, an overgrown homestead.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. I hadn’t suspected the scope of the “walk” that my Dad had proposed that morning. His world, unlike mine, had been one where exertion was the common currency. But as we passed through one last patch of scrubby woods, he paused.

“This is where I shot a wolf once”, he said. “The skull may still be around here somewhere”.

We shuffled through the leaf mold for awhile. Finally my Dad reached down and pulled up the old bone.

wildpotato's avatar

This is amazing – the Fluther A la recherche du temps perdu!

I am pretty young and only have a few, from experiences I shared one-on-one with people who are now dead. I remember walking with my grandfather and his dog Feenie around the beautiful houses in Squirrel Hill, in Pittsburgh, when I was about ten, and him teasing me by asking if I had any boyfriends.

I remember talking about philosophy with my friend Keith, and he brought up a Scientology seminar he had once attended out of curiosity. He said he got frustrated and left when they refused to answer his questions properly. He wanted to know what they meant by a particular phrase, and the leader in turn questioned him about the meanings of mundane words in the phrase, like “What do you think ‘the’ means?” We laughed about Bill Clinton and “Depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is,” I think.

downtide's avatar

This is a great question but I can honestly not remember any single experience I’ve had in which all the other participants have passed away. There probably were some with my grandparents, but they died when I was too young to remember them.

flutherother's avatar

I see my grandfather sitting in his favourite chair by the window in a warm and cosy room offering to show me a card trick. I was very young and my grandfather died a long time ago. He produced a single playing card carefully turning it so I could see the front the back and the sides and then he began stroking it with his thick arthritic fingers. A second card gradually appeared in his hand beside the first. This was my first experience of real magic and it blew my mind that something could be created out of nothing. I can still feel the wonder and the astonishment of that moment.

Bellatrix's avatar

Only my father and I shared the moment when I was mauled by a rabbit. We were at a petting zoo and a rogue rabbit lurched at my finger when I poked it through the fence and bit down on my knuckle. That rabbit held on with the determination of a pit bull. Now one would assume a father would leap to my rescue. No. Mine rolled around on the grass laughing for what to me seemed like a very long time. I was a tad shocked at his callous lack of concern about his daughter being attacked by a rabbit.

Then there was the time my sister took me to visit the lion park. Half way around the park after lots of ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at the lions she says “hmmm, the car has been on empty for quite a while now. I hope we get back to the exit gates before we run out”. Obviously, this lax attitude to dangerous animals is genetic. We did make it out without having to call for help.

There are many, many more touching moments but these two events make me giggle and say so much about the sense of fun both my sister and father shared.

Coloma's avatar

@Bellatrix Haha, pricelss, I love it! You should have carried extra rabbits with you to toss at the lions while you made your get away.
It was so funny the other night, a movie where a plane was going to crash. A passenger told the other passengers to not bend over and put their head between their knees as he had seen a documentary where people that did that in a planne crash has their spines shoved into their brains.

I swear, I would say something like that at a critical moment, I laughed so hard. ;-p

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@thorninmud Thank you for sharing that memory. It is beautiful. And it reminded me of this one with my own father.

Dad was a sharp-shooter in WWII. He fought in The Battle of The Bulge, and his troop was the first to enter the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria. He met and married Mom about a year after returning to the US.

Dad never talked to any of us about his experience in Europe. All that we children ever heard came from Mom, and that was only about him waking up in the middle of the night from horrific nightmares about his tour of duty. The only information we had about his experience came from censored letters to his mother, a set of photos of the concentration camp, and a Luger pistol.

When I was 28 and living in Chicago, the parents came for a visit. We toured a local museum, which had a temporary display of the lives of children who had suffered in the concentration camps. We walked through it silently.

At the end, we found a table in the cafe. Dad, after about 40 years of never speaking about it, told Mom and me about his experience. He passed away about a year later.

My brother has the Luger. My remaining sister had the photos until they were stolen out of her school desk when she took them in for show and tell. Mom used Dad’s letters to attempt to put together a document that chronicled his time in the war. What I have is his tale from that one afternoon in the museum when he finally spoke about his actual experience.

gailcalled's avatar

Corrected link to my grandfather with his Great Dane, King (the gentle giant) and me in 1942.

When I was really little, I was allowed to ride on his back. My sibs and cousins, all younger, never had that experience.

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