Odors are very powerful emotional stimuli, explains Bruce Turetsky, a University of Pennsylvania associate psychiatry professor. In fact, he says, different scents may "have a greater ability to bring up an emotional memory in you than seeing a picture or hearing a voice."
I'm a big believer in the power of smells. My mind immediately goes to another place and time when I smell a specific odor. The girls locker room of the Dayton High School gym has the exact same smell as it did the first time I walked into it as a freshman in the fall of 1974. A whiff of musk cologne and I am transported back to the summer of 1980 when I traveled through Europe with a group of fellow students, one of whom bathed in that particular cologne. Cinnamon rolls always take me back to school lunches: chili and cinnamon rolls.
For a week now I've had the cold/crud that has been visiting the valley since the middle of December. My sense of smell has been non-existent until this afternoon. I worked two days this week, but at the end of yesterday I gave up. I needed sleep without the hack of my friend the cough, so I took pills and cough syrup last night and slept until 10 AM today. Once I finally got around to it, I took a nice hot shower. Oh joy! I could breath again without coughing after a deep breath. I felt human again. So, I decided I would change sheets and start living life again. I walked into Andrew's room to get clean sheets and WHAM! It hit me. Andrew's room no longer smelled like Andrew.
Now, for those who don't have boys living in their homes, boys smell different than girls. Andrew had good hygiene, it was just that he was a boy. His smell was the smell of his body wash (thank God it was an Old Spice brand and not Axe!). It was the smell of his socks after practice. It was the whiff of gas after he had been on his four-wheeler or mowing a lawn. All of his activity added up to a smell that was definitely "Eau de Andrew." But when I walked into his room today, that smell was barely there. I stood in the middle of his room for a minute and really concentrated. There! I smell it!! It's still here, but barely.
Friday will mark the seventh month since that June day that changed my life. There are many things around my house that makes me feel like Andrew is still a part of our lives. There are pictures in each room. There are shadow boxes with jerseys, dance pictures with dried boutonnieres, pictures, hats, and golf balls in them. His letterman's jacket still hangs in the closet. His basketballs still fill the muck bucket in the back room. His spirit still fills my heart. Panic overcame me for a moment this afternoon when my senses weren't overwhelmed by his essence in his room. I think I am afraid the day will come and I won't feel him as near to me as I feel him right now. But that really won't happen. How can I think that I will ever forget that soul whose body was a part of my body for nine months and a part of my life for sixteen years?
As I've said before, my mind knows he is a great place, but my heart wishes he was with us instead. I wish I would have known the depth of his pain. I wish I wouldn't have been so busy with my life. I just wish I could have a re-do. But I know I can't, so I continue to live my life. I will try to work on the list I've created for my 2011 resolutions. And I will continue to go into Andrew's room, hoping for a whiff that brings back a strong memory of the boy I love so much.