You Can't Remember Half the Things You Used to -- How Much Does That Matter?
Continued from previous page
Once upon a time, that is.
Things are different now.
For some time, you've had a growing awareness of a phenomenon that at first amused, but soon began to trouble you: those memories of yours, once trustworthy, available 24/7, have become erratic, unreliable, either fuzzy at the edges or nowhere to be found, like those barely-remembered dreams that wriggle out of your grasp. Nowadays you're stunned by how repeatedly, how indiscriminately, forgetfulness keeps rearing its frustrating and frustrated head. It isn't just "Hey, who did win the AL batting title in 1948?"1 or "Now, where did I put those keys?"2 but "Damn, what was the name of that company I used to work for when I was in college?"3 and, "You know what? I'm not so sure I ever really did go to the Grand Canyon. Day or night."4Your past, your knowledge, your you seems to be melting away, incident by incident, fact by fact, memory by memory, as an enveloping fog descends around you, thickening each day. Memories that used to stick are now slippery. What used to be Velcro has become Teflon. You get up to write something down and, by the time you reach your pen, you've forgotten what you were going to write. You always seem to be looking or searching for something: in your pockets, on your desk, in your head. You run into someone on the street, he looks familiar, he's saying hello, it's apparent he knows you, but who is he? You perceive he may perceive your non-remembrance, and out of politeness or bruised feelings or sheer sadism (or maybe you're wrong and it's because he can't remember exactly who you are either and, like you, finds it too awkward to say so), he lets you hang there, twisting slowly in the wind, without identifying himself.
As one confounding blank stare after another creepily takes the place of those memories you used to rely on, a host of new acquaintances—embarrassment, apology, nervous laughter, disbelief, self-mockery, bewilderment, anxiety—make more frequent appearances in your life.
And it isn't just you. (Thank God.)
Take, for example, your friend. There he is: eyes agleam, smiling, animatedly telling you a story. (Or you might be telling him one.). Almost inevitably, there comes that awfulmoment when he pauses (or you pause). Eyes lose luster, mouth slackens. He (or you) is utterly lost. It's as if an invisible ray gun had zapped a hole in his (or your) brain. "What was her name?" "Where was I?" "What was I talking about?" he (or you) will ask, more often than not fruitlessly, because shake your two brains as you might, you'll hear nothing rattling inside. Neither of you has any idea what the answer might be. Whatever he (or you) was about to say, is nowhere to be found.
He makes (or you make) a lame joke about his (or your) failing memory, and the story, now somewhat hobbled, proceeds, with one not-insignificant consolation: misery loving company as it does, you're happy to find a fellow passenger in the boat you sometimes fear you've been drifting in alone.
Some "I'm Happy to Talk about This, But I Can't Remember Exactly What It Is I'm Happy to Talk About" For Instances:
Exhibit A: "Margaritaville" or It Doesn't Matter if You Write It Down.
A luncheon companion is about to tell you some story he'd heard somewhere about the guy who sang "Margaritaville" when he pauses; he's unexpectedly seen a gap open up before him and realizes he's stuck. He puts down his sandwich as if that'll help him focus better, but for the life of him, he can't recall the guy's name.5 You're invited to join in the search, but you're no help. The two of you are in a name-free valley, looking up the steep slopes of craggy mountains on either side of you, searching for clues, hoping they'll lead you to that guy's goddamn name so you can climb out of the abyss and move on with your lives already.