The hype has started for the release of Disney-Pixar’s new movie, Finding Dory (the sequel to Finding Nemo), and it has me thinking of my grandmother. Yes, the movie is making me really miss my grandmother, and not just because the release date happens to be the day preceding my grandmother’s birthday.
Finding Nemo came out when our daughter was a toddler and when my grandmother was battling Alzheimer’s a few years before her death. We watched that movie with our daughter so many times I think I could easily have recited the whole movie. I discovered more than a few connections between Dory, the forgetful fish with a big heart, and my own grandmother Doris, the then “forgetful” lady who also had a big heart full of joy. While both Dory and Doris may have had their faults, it was nearly impossible not to love them dearly as they were.
Before my grandmother was diagnosed, and when I was much younger, she would tell me all sorts of amazing stories about her life as I sat in the passenger seat of her car, ABBA playing in the background. She told me over and over how she could manage anything life threw at her, as long as she still had a clear head and her car. Little did she realize that it would be those very attachments to which she clung so dearly that would be stripped from her in her last years.
As our family slowly lost my grandmother, one of the biggest losses I felt was that of losing her amazing stories along with her. I tried to remember them, but there was a fair bit of Dory in me as well in that regard. I kept promising myself to get her talking on a good day and record the stories, but I was a busy young mom and I let other things distract me. Like Dory, I remember bits of her stories, though sadly only enough to appreciate how very much I am missing.
I wish with all my heart that I could remember more of my grandmother’s stories, but I know that somehow they are deep inside me, as they sometimes rise to the surface. Some of the scattered pieces of her story that stay with me include her long vocation discernment process, having nearly become a nun, her work with the local Jesuit school and the priests who ministered there, and her love of writing. I see these pieces as a few of the seeds scattered and sewn in me that led me to Ignatian spirituality.
In the new movie, Dory is setting out to find her family, her story. In my grandmother’s final years, the tide swept her away from remembering her own story, and I was swept up right along with her. But, just like Dory, I am left with a few memories that may, by the grace of God, help me find my way back to her side in the communion of saints.