Lifetime Memory

2/18/11

What does “lifetime guarantee” even mean anymore? There’s a Josh Ritter song playing from my computer speakers, and he sings:

We were all built to last, guaranteed for life

That’s what everyone says

Not under flourescent lights

With those tubes in your arms

In a hospital bed.

I thought first of all of those plastic packages that boast bright red labels with sayings like “You’ll never have to replace it!” and “Indestructible.” I remember a leather briefcase I once found on amazon.com. It was advertised as being “so durable that your kids will be fighting over it when you die.” It saddens me to realize that the tradition of passing down objects and skills has become the exception to the rule. As for all of those red sticker promises of lifetime warranty, I doubt that anyone will actually keep those products until they reach that final hospital bed. It’s more of a slogan that offers an excuse for buying an incredibly expensive item–like those “dry-fit” and “100% water proof” pieces of “gear” my Dad is always lusting after. In this age of buy it and replace it after two years because there’s something newer and more impressive on the market, it doesn’t matter if something is “built to last.” I wish it did. On an individual level, I think that I have an appreciation for old things that a lot of my generation does not.

I spent my graduation party in my grandmother’s pink 1950s handmade dress. Instead of receiving the same coveted Tiffany bracelet my cousin did for her graduation, my Nana gave me the locket that her grandmother once wore. On the other side of my family, my Grandmother presented me with the charm bracelet she assembled as a girl. It has over 40 charms. All of them mean something to her. All of them tell a story. When she gave it to me, she was surprised at my excitement. She told me that she thought I might not want it because it is “so clunky and out of style.” I reassured her that it meant the world to me.

I have made an effort to get to know the generation of my grandparents, but I am finding that the effort is never big enough. Tradition is lost more quickly every day. I’m afraid that some day it won’t exist.

The end of Josh Ritter’s short chorus leaves me pensive. He makes a comment about the way we die…with tubes in our arms, bathed in a false and buzzing light. Today, my grandfather is fighting for his life in a hospital bed in Arizona. None of us saw this coming. He is surrounded by his children and wife, but can’t hear any of their words or the feeling of their fingers grasping his. He’s completely sedated. This is both comforting and disturbing. My Mom told me that my grandma didn’t want the grand kids to see him like this–to remember him as a breathing machine. We should remember him as the man who danced all night in October at my cousin’s wedding, and taught us all to fish when we were 6. The power of memory is incredibly important. I am learning that quickly. Memories and traditions are truly something that “lasts a lifetime.”

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