Memory Fails Me

Remember when? The question comes at me repeatedly these days.
The door to the music store hadn’t been unlocked long this morning when the police detective came through it.
“Remember when?” he asked.
I didn’t, quite. He jogged my memory a bit and I did, almost. Before the end of the conversation, I held a piece of paper in my own handwriting attesting to the event which happened just three years ago. Our business completed, he headed for the door. As he left, I realized that, even with the evidence in my hand, I really don’t remember when.
I looked at my Facebook feed today and saw that a note had been posted to one of those reminiscing pages which originates from my hometown in South Texas.
“Remember when?” the post began.
They wanted to know if anyone had memories of the location of a certain grocery store. I didn’t. After twenty-seven replies to the post, and with ample evidence that the store was there during my years at home, I still don’t remember when.
Odd. Both memories should be in my head. I was there for the event which the detective wished to discuss. I was in my hometown when that supermarket was doing business. I have proofs that both should be rattling around somewhere in my head. Perhaps, the filing system is at fault. I think it may be more than just that.
The redhead who raised me used to throw around a phrase to which I objected.
“Selective memory,” she suggested. 
I knew better–I thought. In retrospect, she may have been right. I have never done that purposely; have never consciously determined to forget an event of which I didn’t want to retain memory. But, the fact remains that I can’t remember those things when I know I was there. I was actively involved and should remember.
Perhaps they just weren’t all that important to me. Later today, the same group of reminiscers wondered who recalled when the Sambo’s restaurant had been in business, and instantly I was back to 1975 in my mind. We took a break from cruising the main drag to drink coffee and visit for awhile at the counter as we flirted with the waitresses. Sambo’s, I remember. And yeah, you guessed it–the restaurant was there at the same time as the grocery store which I can’t remember.
Come to think of it, selective memory may actually be a recurring problem for me. There could be other things I have forgotten. One should probably ask the Lovely Lady about that. What is clear is that the things which are important to me stick in my head and other events with less personal impact drift into oblivion. Perhaps they will appear again one day. Perhaps not.
“Remember when?” I asked the redhead who raised me the last time we talked. I wondered about the location of something at the house in which I had grown up, her home for nearly forty years. Her reply was devastating to me.
“I don’t remember that house at all.”
Selective memory? No. Sadly, my Mom’s cognizance of many events, both past and future, has been lost to a disease we all dread, but all think will never come to us. She suffers from dementia, that monstrous thief of every memory. There are still moments of clarity, but they come with less and less frequency. I will not burden the reader with a litany of my emotional responses, except to say this: I miss my Mom.
Remember when? Depending on the events, we are either happy to remember or loath to have the images of the past brought to mind. We may even change the events to force them to fit inside our comfort zone. Barbra Streisand sings about this in the theme song from the movie, “The Way We Were”. There, she suggests musically, “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”
Sometimes, forgetting the past is not such a bad thing. I mentioned to my grandson the other day that I missed the Lovely Lady’s mother, who used to sit next to me at the dinner table each week.
“Mom says we don’t need to wish for things that are in the past,” he suggested helpfully.
I didn’t argue. His mom makes a good point. It does us no good to wish for things which never can be again. I will suggest that our Creator has given us memories for a purpose, though. It is comforting to remember people who once walked beside us; it is helpful to consider past events which taught us important lessons. Perhaps a selective memory is not such a bad thing when kept under control.
My failure to remember events which I should, as well as the certainty that I need to leave some things behind me in the darkness of forgetfulness, leads me to one final thought.
Memory is a faithless travel companion and cannot be depended upon as a navigator. Don’t let it be the light by which your steps are guided in the dark. Our memories don’t determine the future and certainly can’t be allowed to cause us to lose sight of our goals. The mark at which we aim must be unmovable in spite of our past.
Our steps today carry us, faltering or not, toward the place and time when we’ll finish our travels. On that day, I’d like to be able to look back and see, in spite of all the missteps and bad decisions, that the path led step by laboring step directly to the finish line. I’m not sure, but I think it’s just possible that those who here have lost their ability to remember, may actually await us at the finish line with undimmed eyes and clear minds. Perhaps, even those who are already gone on ahead will be there also, cheering us on as we break the tape.
Ah! That will be a day worth remembering.
There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.
(from “A Walk To Remember”~Nicholas Sparks~American author)
Can it be that it was all so simple then;
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again,
Tell me, would we? Could we?
(“The Way We Were”~Bergman & Hamlisch~American songwriters)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved. 
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