My Mom suffered from dementia during her last years. A good friend’s mother did too. So we occasionally share tips for keeping our minds sharp; things like brushing teeth or buttoning a shirt with one’s opposite hand, and counting backward from 100 by 7’s. We don’t know whether they help, but it makes us feel better to make the effort, I guess. No one wants to lose precious memories.
Memory is incongruous. It can be selective, like people my age who complain about kids or Millennials, forgetting their own behavior “back in the day”. Memory can also be the feeling of a touch you had forgotten that somehow comes back to you in the shape of a blackberry pie. It is the scent of walking past a stranger’s home when dinner is cooking, and those familiar smells suddenly fill you with an inescapable yearning. Sometimes you can almost feel as if you have fallen into a vortex and are rushing back in time.
Memory is a temperamental and occasionally sadistic beast. You forget where you left your car keys and yet you remember the first gift you gave to your boyfriend for Christmas in 1966. You momentarily forget the password for your FB account, which you obviously know because you use it daily, but you instantly recall the phone number of the house where you grew up. Sometimes you remember, out of nowhere seemingly, the lyrics to a long-forgotten song, and yet you can’t seem to remember what you fixed for dinner two nights ago. Cherish is a word I use to describe… all the feelings….
Why do we easily remember some things, and why does the powerful, magical entity that is our brain hold out on other things? How does some of the most vital stuff slip away? Is it possible that the memories we have are not always true, but simply what we have dreamed them to be, as in the case of my fellow boomers and their selective memories?
Maybe it helps to know that life doesn’t always demand memory. A chameleon licking a leaf dripping with dew doesn’t ask where the water came from. It just drinks.