Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following is a post written by Morgan, a current student in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts:

Attending The University of Michigan, It’s easy to get caught up into a routine. Personally the rigors of school schedules, Field Hockey practice, academics, socialization, and hopefully some sleep, become regimented and routine. Occasionally something stands out that breaks the norm and become memorable. These handful of events will end up defining the overall college experience vs. the routine, that will eventually dissolve into so much background noise. The time that I have spent each week with my MAEA community member is one of the special events that I’ll take with me when I leave Ann Arbor.

Having a conversation with my MAEA member is often like uncovering a complex life puzzle. Each week I dig deeper into this life and all of the people it has touched. The more I question, the more admiration I have for him and the better I get to know him the closer we become. My member very simply has had an amazing life. He was a doctor, has traveled the world saving starving children, is an accomplished musician, and raised a very happy family with 2 children, 6 grandchildren and his beloved wife whom I had the privilege to meet. He also invited me to dinner at his home where he and his wife took me through their lives showing me many photos and recalling the events that made up their life together. I was moved by how open and welcoming they were with me.

But with any long life there are challenges. My member has been diagnosed with a type of dementia known as PCA that effects his sight and motor skills in addition to memory. Every week presents a different struggle, but this doesn’t seem to diminish his positive attitude. Our 2-hours together flies by. Sometimes we talk about current events as seen through his perspective, sometimes he’ll recount his favorite memories, or his favorite subject of all, “his pretty little wife.”

One of the special aspects of my member is the humor he applies to his illness. He jokingly recounted that one day while at the gym he forgot how to put on his pants in the locker room and was forced to walk to his car in his underwear. He filled the room with laughter as he told the story. His ability to find humor in moments that would make others feel bitter or self-pitying is amazing.

My conversations with my MAEA member far surpass anything I could have learned in a classroom. There isn’t a “right way” to live life. People make their own choices on how to conduct themselves and how they face adversity. He chose a life of happiness, love and positivity. Included in his long list of impressive accomplishments, his passions, his service to our country and his family, is a contagious smile and overwhelming compassion for his fellow human beings.


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