I have a friend who, in our group of friends, is referred to as “The Memorist.” If there were a direct opposite to that, the “Non-memorist”? I would win the title. I keep a daily journal in an effort to remember. I write in an effort to remember. Because I have a bad memory (and sadly, there’s a very real chance it may get worse).
I was recently reunited with college volleyball team members–the team from my senior season was inducted into our university’s Hall of Fame this year (I know, pretty cool)–and I am aghast at how fragmented and incomplete my memory of that season is after listening to stories of our time together. My memory is like a single slice of lacey Swiss.
I did not remember a soccer game practice warm-up where I was tackled and suffered floor burns, unprepared for the competitive vigor of one of the freshmen. I did not remember a bus ride where a sudden stop sent my sleeping form sliding down the aisle to the coaches at the front of the bus. I did not remember even writing a last will and testament to my teammates, leaving each of them with sentiments both humorous and dour. Now maybe I should give myself a break. That was twenty years ago, but there are the more recent events that are already fading.
I was pregnant fewer than two years ago, and I don’t remember what it felt like. I have vague recollections of my taut belly, and being unable to see my feet, but the weight of my baby growing inside of me, the kicks and hiccups, even the acid reflux that I know I had I cannot summon into my current consciousness.
Although my son is only 17 months old, I have difficulty recollecting what it felt like to breastfeed him. It is something I will never do again, as he will be our one and only child, and though I remember bawling when my husband gave him a bottle of formula to supplement my inadequate supply, and though I vividly recall insisting that we stop nursing him to sleep, so I would not have to make that careful transfer from breast to bed every night, I can no longer bring to mind the physical sensation of nurturing my child from my body.
These holey memories sadden me, and anger me as well. Why do I so clearly remember stupid things I did as a young adult? I can remember spending $24 on lime green Rust-Oleam. My best friend and I, in a naive attempt to show our school spirit, spray painted the gravel that formed the numbers of our graduation year on the hill at our rival school’s football stadium, two goody-two-shoes who didn’t know enough to run away when the security rent-a-cops waved their flashlights our way. I remember the resulting trip to the police station where we properly had the daylights scared out of us with threats of vandalism charges. I remember the ridiculous day of in-school suspension and the shocked looks on the faces of our AP teachers when we went by their classrooms to get the day’s assignments. I remember this ordeal quite clearly, but not the first time my son called me “Mommy.”
But then there’s my father. His situation is exponentially worse. His memory is being stolen from him by Alzheimer’s Disease. My sadness and anger over my accursed memory is nothing compared to my sadness and anger over what is happening to his. At times his memory will not show him the way to a restaurant he’s driven to dozens of times before, nor will it show him the way home once he’s lost. His memory does recall a trip to Africa other than the two he and my mom took together to visit their children as Peace Corps Volunteers. It is a trip that never actually happened. His memory weaves together separate incidents from his life, a kid from his hometown jumping off the water tower and his brother dying of cancer, so that he now believes his brother died by being blown off the roof of a building. My father’s memory has carved out a time in his life when my mother left him, though in reality they have been married and together for more than forty-five years. And my father’s memory will sometimes refuse to connect the name “Regan” to his knowledge of a grown daughter living in Tucson. I sometimes simply cease to exist in my father’s memory.
Damn you, Memory.