Not remembering is a characteristic of age, a unifying experience amongst the wrinklies; and a profound nuisance. Going from one part of the house to another in search of something and then forgetting what it is that you are looking for – though retracing your steps and starting form the beginning again can help. The – for us important – exchange of greetings at Christmas can be demanding as I try to identify a name with a place and a time and a face, until I eventually – often with help from my wife – remember the person and celebrate our friendship. Danny with his mentoring wife used to attend our cardiac and rehabilitation sessions. A friendly man with a smiling face, he used to say as we bumped around the gym and did our exercises– almost as if it was a badge of honour – ‘I can’t remember a thing’.
Today I’m meeting up with a onetime school friend, which means we have known each other for more than seventy years. We shall share personal and family news, no doubt exchange stories about Christmas, moan about the government (more resigned in his case probably, fulminate in incandescent rage as far as I am concerned), and inevitably share stories about our old school.
Apparently memory plays the trick of it being easier to recall incidents of childhood than what happened yesterday, so there will be no problem there as we remember what it was like to grow up in the war years with a rigid grammar school regime and a collection of teachers of varying ability. My friend achieved better than I did and with excellent numeracy skills and lots of evening classes went on to a responsible situation as treasurer of a large organisation. The school either failed me or I failed it.
It’s the inability to remember and put into sequence whole periods of my life that I find disturbing. With help I can often get back to the front of my mind what seems to have been lost, but it can be a hard journey to do that and increasingly an impossible one.
I want to know what it’s all been about and am frustrated when I can’t manage to do so. I suppose the answer is to go on trying but at the same time to practice existentialism! What happened when it happened is what’s important, and what happens now. Every new day is a gain, and never mind the losses.
Today’s message from the preacher to himself!