Drooling on the Pillow

Monday, October 24, 2005

I Remember Nada 

I've got a lousy memory. Always have. Short term, long term, kinetic, you name it, it's lousy. I like to think that my mind compensates with equivalent strengths, but, as with anything you 'like' to think, the evidence is scant. So if I've forgotten your name, please forgive me.

What was I talking about?

Oh, yeah. I have one very early memory, which involves a breast, believe it or not, and then only a handful of images from my first eight years. I do have evidence that I was aware of my sieve-like brain even then as I recall sitting in my living room around the age of eight consciously memorizing a mundane domestic scene just to see if I would be able to recall it years later. I still have that image, though it's gone all wonky and out of focus and bleached of colors. Just the TV on a table with the steps rising up from the outside door to the second floor behind. And an African Violet on a side table beside the TV. I thank my eight-year old self for making the effort, but I fear it was all in vain.

I recall climbing a hill behind the filling station my grandfather (dead before my arrival) used to own and losing a shoe to the mud. I remember cutting through my Aunt Mid's backyard and being stunned nearly into a coma by the sight of my great aunt sunning herself in the nude in the grape arbor. I remember Dorcus Evans, a young lady almost twice my size, giving me a look outside Colfax Elementary that stirred me in a way that was entirely new to me. I remember playing football with Billy Hill and Bobby Jones (really) in Bobby's backyard. And I remember climbing the cliff above Bull Creek Run and nearly slipping off the path onto the rocks fifty feet below.

It's just the nature of things, I guess, that just mentioning these moments brought back a few other moments I didn't know I still had. Two or three for each one. I'm sure there are many more in there, somewhere, if I chose to look.

But the curious thing to me is that it's my nature not to do that. I've wanted to be a writer since, well, I can't remember, of course. But there's something that discourages me from looking back. As far as I can recall, I had a normal childhood. There were tensions that waited another decade to detonate, but I wasn't abused or mistreated or neglected. The only plausible theory I have is that I've always lacked confidence in the brains department. There may be a notion floating around that with severely limited storage capability, the only way I can grow and learn is by periodic data dumps.

I don't know. The reason I mention all this is that I'm watching someone start down the road to Alzheimer's. Her short term memory is mostly gone, but, for the moment, at least, her long term memory seems more reliable than before. I'm wondering if that's because, as with my theory above, there is temporarily more storage space or because all of the agendas relating to the long ago memories have been disassociated from the events. If you can't remember why you preferred to think of Cousin Rupert as a thieving braggart, maybe you'll remember him more like he actually was; someone who was just luckier than you.

I'm sure I'm wrong, I'm sure memory doesn't work that way. I've probably read something about this, but for some reason, I just can't remember.
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