So Many Stories

Posted on August 27, 2014

This summer I volunteered at Melabev three times a week for three weeks.  Melabev is a day care center for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  My role, in its essence, was to listen.  What did I hear?

Stories.  So many stories, like snapshots from the past.  Reimagined, sparked from some suggestion, or an interior rekindling of self.  In many ways, our memory defines our identity—who we are, and how we conceive our humanity.  Volunteering at Melabev this summer taught me the capacity stories carry to illustrate memory.

Robert Greenberg with Memory Club members at MelabevPlaces and cities, acquaintance and friends, family, history, and passions–this is what people spoke about, all of which was intertwined through their recapitulation of past events.  Barriers exist which prevented these individuals from beginning or completing thoughts, and conversation was often difficult. Through speech though, the individuals I conversed with regained a sense of self amidst much uncertainty and frustration.  I learned, as a listener, how to facilitate conversation to navigate those barriers, and I learned, as a listener, that just giving someone your full attention can give someone the ability and courage to remember.  I will miss my time in that space of joy and levity.

Robert Greenberg
Volunteer & Study Participant 2014