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Day 237. in which we remember panic, but not her name.

A friend of mine (not Kyrce) recently left her laptop at work and had to go back to work to fetch it. She was ashamed she had forgotten this, though she shouldn't have been. Only a couple of weeks earlier , she was also the same person who reminded me that I was 'human' not 'stupid' when I sought help from her with my head hanging low when I had forgotten to track time against all of the projects I'd been working by the deadline.

Nor did forgetting the laptop actually surprise me, either. I know several who have done the same thing (though it's usually the other way around); I think this happens far more frequently than one would realize. I don't think there is any shame in this, although I completely understand the frustration she must have felt - particularly so since she didn't remember until she had already made the hour commute and had to promptly turn around to do it all over again.

In the super, fast-paced lives we have created for ourselves, it's impossible to rely on memory alone. I forget this from time to time, and my pilot, Kyrce, usually reminds me that my memory is finite, and that it's not a failure to rely on a 'to-do' list. (Kyrce gives me most of my pep talks.)

Yet there is a shame associated with forgetting we have learned; we do not treat memory loss as a symptom but as a failure.

Forgotten anniversaries. Forgotten birthdays. Forgotten homework. Forgotten phone numbers.

How could you forget...?

We have been trained to think like this but really - it's OK to forget.

And if you suffer from Alzheimer's, it's inevitable that you'll forget.

There is no shame in Alzheimer's.

* * *

It is difficult to distinguish between when my father was simply absentminded, and when he developed Alzheimer's. He became particularly good at covering his memory issues by diverting attention to it with a joke. He was not honest about it and when pushed, he blamed car accidents from his youth (though likely a contributor) for his memory loss - car accidents in which he was not the driver.

He did not want to be the one to 'blame' for his memory loss. To him, memory loss was embarrassing. Something to be hidden. Something shame worthy.

Memory loss is a symptom, not a moral shortcoming - but we tend to treat it like a social transgression.
* * *
I forget things. Worse yet, I forget people. There are large gaping holes in my memory and this frightens me. I can't imagine what it must feel like for Dad. When I look back through the years, I remember most of the star players but many of the peripheral people have faded.

Paradoxically, the more recent people fade more quickly than those further back. The memories of grade school often are often more present than those from college.

A couple of years ago, I was sorting through all of the junk mail piled up in my post office box when I noticed a young woman who seemed strikingly familiar. But from where? I felt panicked as I attempted the best appearance of preoccupation I could put on; I didn't want her to approach me unless I could remember exactly who she was and how I knew her so I tried to avoid eye contact.

Busy and distracted, I riffled through piles of envelopes and advertisements, tossing more than half of these in the garbage can. I was no longer looking at the mail, though. I was looking in my head for some kind of spark. and there was none.

I knew she saw me. I knew she was looking at me. God, was I friends with her? Or did I just know her from a check-out somewhere? What if I didn't know her? how could I do this without looking like a total idiot?

I couldn't.

Because the feeling nagging me was that I should know her, that I not only knew her but that I knew her well.

I shoved the few items worth taking home from my mailbox into my canvas bag, hung my head in shame, and walked out the door.

I've been taking a lot of photographs recently. Part of the reason why I believe I recall some of the events of my childhood is that there were photo albums of some of these events. Often, the photograph acts as a trigger for the memory and I suspect this is reinforced the more often I look at the same photographs.

The best photographs are the ones that capture reality - ugly or not, which is why I take pictures of my kids, even when they are crying. I prefer a photo of my kids strangling each other to a photo of them poised unnaturally and stiffly, like those taken at a studio. A picture should be more than aesthetically pleasing; it is a moment of time captured.

When you think about it, it fascinates me like a caveman that this is even possible – that this real moment can be ‘caught’.

As I find myself taking more and more photographs, I can't be certain if it's my love of photography or a desperate fear of forgetting everything that has happened to me.

I finally remembered who the girl from the post office was, though I'm not proud to say that I never have been able to recall her name. She was in a couple of classes I had taken at college, though I can't be certain which and she also had worked at my ex-boyfriend's office. The last memory I have of her was of inviting her to my graduation party. Ironically, the last place I had seen her was on Wall Street one evening - right where it meets the post office on John Street.

She couldn't make it to my graduation party. I seem to recall she was grounded? and how it tickled me to think that I was young enough to still have friends that could 'get' grounded.

But I had liked her enough to invite her to my party.

Yet I have no idea now who she was more than a few abstract memories.

* * *
I'm sitting by Seth's feet on the couch. It's a little after noon and the kids are napping upstairs. Dad is resting quietly on the smaller couch across the room. Seth is lounging on the couch with a blanket, in between naps. He was up late playing games and listening to Japanese Techno music last night...The rest of us are just back from Forsythe Park. Lil and Liam led me around the fortress, over tires and up wooden stairs, and around again.

After the park, we walked over to see the animals at the nature center. Liam crowed like a rooster and Lil clucked like a duck. Dad and I argued about whether or not this one bird was a pheasant or not. We headed for home when the clouds over us began to look ominous. I am feeling proud because I managed all 3 of them, without a loss or an injury, all by myself.

Now it is quiet in the house. I wonder, what of this will I remember?