Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Amarcord or not

Trying to get the memory ball rolling for others by posting my own comment to my last post turned out to be a bust. The only response I got was a note from my dad, disputing some of my recollections. He remembers the little boy who found the gun in his father's truck, but says he shot his sister, not his brother, and Dad says he didn't ever bring him to the farm. But he did remember the story about the little boy in the witches cradle. When I asked him who that little boy was, he couldn't remember, and finally conceded that my recollection might be right. I'll concede that the boy shot his sister, not his brother. But the whole thing is a reminder of just how slippery a creature a memory can be.

I'm struggling lately with memory issues. And I'm becoming aware of how much of human behavior revolves around this kind of struggle. I know that I often don't speak to people in casual social situations because I really should know their names but I can't remember them. It just stands to reason that what I imagine to be rude or snobbish behavior from middle aged acquaintances of mine might often be simply their inability to place me.

For day-to-day business, my mind often works like RAM that clears when the power goes off, or one of those old slates that you write on with a stylus and then peel up the plastic sheet to erase the words. I'll keep some important fact in my head just long enough to pass it on to other people who need to know. Then, days later, those people will act as though they were never told and I have to dredge through the vaults for clues -- did I forget to tell them or did they forget that I told them? People become very defensive about this sort of thing, so I've taken to writing such communications down.

I suppose that my memory isn't really bad. I can still shine sometimes in my ability to pull details out of the air and facts from the past, but my memory is glitchy. And it's worse on some weeks than others, like a mnemonic biorhythm. But just as failing vision affects the ability to navigate a crowded room, glitchy memory makes conversation or social interaction more difficult. You have to adapt new tools and techniques, and become more forgiving of others.

It's not exactly reassuring, but it puts it in perspective to realize that I've always had a struggle with memory, particularly remembering names. Even in my youth, close acquaintances have become blanks to me when I've been called upon to handle introductions. And yet I can still recite nonsense poetry that I learned from Mad Magazine when I was 12.

Grundig Blaupunkt
Luger Frug
Watusi Snarf Wazoo.

Nixon Dirksen
Rebozo Boogaloo.

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