Wednesday, October 26, 2011


You’ve probably heard this phrase before: memory is a funny thing.  For instance, a dog plus a day spent swimming in Lake Erie merged together in my child’s brain to become a memory of aforementioned dog swimming out into the lake and never returning.  I distinctly remember the gray color of the thin strip of sand, the rocks rising farther down along the shore, the chill on my skin when the wind blew in off of the lake, and I remember a dog scampering in and out of the water, highly agitated that we children were playing in the waves.  But the rest of it – the sad part - is false.  The false memory comes from a song called “Shannon” by Henry Gross (about the drowning death of Carl Wilson's Irish Setter) which still makes me cry to this day.  Or this: I remember nothing from my lessons of fifth grade, but I do remember my teacher singing two lines from “Tiny Bubbles” as she erased the chalkboard.  And perhaps you’ve experienced the phenomenon of not being sure whether a memory is of something you’ve actually done or whether it’s an errant snippet of film from a long ago dream.

Someone close to me is witnessing the connections in his parent's mind slowly disintegrate, fragments of her past crowding into her present and jumbling together to create Dali-esque thoughts.  Words come out unedited, unintended stream of consciousness.  On some days his mother is a little girl again in a school house or she might be a passenger on a train, wondering at which stop she should disembark; some days her sisters are alive and her husband, too.  And then on some days, rarer and rarer now, she is just an old woman who has finished her breakfast and is wondering what she should do for the rest of the day.

Memory and the workings of the human mind have been on my...mind a lot lately.  I try to keep my brain sharp.  I struggle with crossword puzzles, read books copiously; I exercise and avoid the vacuity of television.  And I write.  That’s one way to attempt to assure that memories are stored and are filed in their correct order in time.  The trouble may prove to be in remembering where I’ve put what I’ve written or whether I remember that I’ve written anything at all.


  1. hmmmm, very thought provoking. My late mother-in-law suffered from Altzhimers. Actually, I think the family suffered more, to see her slip farther away at every visit. My sister-in-law kept her at home until she passed, and tried so hard every day to remind mom of the good times. my husband wonders what his future holds, and so he keeps busy and tries to eat healthy. memories are a fragile thing.

  2. I was shocked to learn that each time we "remember" something, we are actually overwriting the previous memory with our newest version. So, in effect, our truest memories are the unremembered ones.

    I enjoyed your post, and drifted over from the headline on BlogHer.



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