Monday, July 16, 2012


Now, don't worry a bit: I'm not going to post a video of me singing the theme song (and the endlessly repeated melody) of Cats. Now, I'm a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber--I just love Evita and Phantom of the Opera--but Cats, forgive me, is a one tune dog. When it was popular, people who saw it said, "Oh, the actors act just like cats on stage. They make you forget they're people."

Then we saw it and my reply to that observation was, "No, they don't. They look like people in cat suits trying to act like cats and succeeding only  in looking like people in cat suits acting acting like cats." Does that make sense. Anyhow, it didn't work for me.

Anyhow, this post is about memory and about how I have none. Nil. Zip. Nada. Zero. I forget what I've gone to the store to get if it's more than two items and I don't write them down. I forget what I came into a room to do. I don't remember what I went upstairs to find. Names are the worse, and that little occurrence usually happens at church when I go to make an introduction and can't remember the name of a friend I've known for decades to introduce them to someone I've just met. That's embarrassing. Most of the time my former long-time friend will bail me out by introducing him or herself. Occasionally, though, even a long time friend will leave me twisting in  the wind of my own making.

I went to introduce a lady I've known for a long time to someone and could not think of her name. I said, "Jane, I'd like to introduce you to..." and my mind went blank. My friend looked coolly at me and said, "If you can't remember my name, I'm not going to help you." AWK-ward, yes. After about thirty seconds I thought of her name and realized how long thirty seconds can be when you're standing there waiting for something to happen. Once I remembered who she was, the rest of the introduction went smoothly, and I believe my friend has forgiven me for my faux pas.

I understand, talking with people in a certain, uh, age bracket, that this is a rather common phenomenon, but common or not, it's bothersome. I think I came upon this truth when I realized that most of my everyday activities are devoted to doing things that help me to remember things. I put things in front of the door that I need to take some place. This doesn't always work when I step over them. I put things in the car ahead of time so they will go with me. Unfortunately, I have two cars that I use and I have to remember which object is in which car for this to work. I even keep three calendars. I have a small paper calendar I keep at my desk, a small pocket calendar I keep, strangely enough, in my pocket, and lately I've started keeping track of events on my iPhone. I'm a member of the digital bridge generation, though, so I don't completely trust digital devices. Hence the paper calendars.

My calendars usually are the worse for wear. I used to write down things I didn't want to forget in a cool little paper covered Moleskine notebook but after a while living in my pocket, it looked like what a friend described as a wad of napkins. Now I rely on what Alyssa calls squirrelly scraps of paper. I sometimes transfer these notes to notebooks, one for regular writing ideas and one for choir devotional ideas. That doesn't mean that I remember what these notes mean when I go back to look at them. More's the pity, I know.

In the Middle Ages, scholars relied on what were called houses and cathedrals of memory. They pictured objects in the structure which helped them remember thousands of things or ideas/ For example, if they wanted to remember the medieval curriculum, they might picture a knight studying a book. Night study=astronomy. I think it's easier just to remember astronomy, myself, but then I don't live in the Middle Ages. And I can't remember thousands of items, either.

I have tried relying on my memory more, doing things like moving my watch to my left wrist. Later, though, I'll think, "Why is my watch on my left wrist?" so that doesn't always work. Mnemonic devices are useful for things like the colors of the spectrum in order (ROY G. BIV), which are about all the colors I know anyhow. Becky worked out a homemade mnemonic for me to remember what we get when we order pizza. It's MOPS--mushroom, onion, pepperoni and sausage. And I pretty well have Becky's preference for a Subway sandwich memorized.

And so, when it comes to memory, I'm a work in progress. If I can remember what that means.

1 comment:

  1. This is why I love you, Dan. I do this all the time: "I put things in front of the door that I need to take some place."

    Calendars: if I have three, inevitably, one or two go un-updated (if that's a word). I need to get a more portable calendar and teach myself to bring it everywhere I go, including downstairs to my desk.

    An expert on aging said we don't forget because we're old. We forget because we have so much information stored in our brains. In my case, I overloaded the hard drive years ago.