In last week’s paper there was a letter wondering if my lack of list writing was due to my having a good memory.
In answer to that, (while I pick myself up off the floor and wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes), is NO.
My memory is atrocious and always has been; which is another reason why lists don’t work for me, because I forget where I’ve put them.
But lest I forget, let us return to the subject of memory. I have what you would call a selective one.
A trait shared by everyone over 30 and under 18 (ask my son who is teetering precariously on the edge of 13 and who never remembers his homework but always remembers in minute detail the day I got drunk and fell asleep under the Christmas tree clutching Ari the Aardvark).
Sometimes I have no memory of the day before and yet I remember the excruciating details of failed love affairs and social gaffs that occurred years ago.
One such memory haunts me still; my one true love and I parted on a hot day in a pub in Kensington.
I still remember every moment; the lump in my throat and the pain I felt in my heart and stomach, the straw bag full of pencils, a sketchbook and the small watercolour palette he had bought me the summer before.
I remember the song playing on the jukebox; ‘If you see her say hello’ by Bob Dylan and the laughter of the other customers as we both tried desperately to hide our tears.
The memory still fills me with a sense of despair. The pain has gone but I still can’t listen to that song without remembering ‘R’ and feeling torn by the abstract itch of a missing limb.
Not all my memories are sad. I have wonderful ones tucked safely away in my brain and when I am low I wipe them down and put them on display.
Recovering an old long forgotten memory is like opening a gold paper wrapped package and finding a precious gem inside. Nostalgia is the ultimate indulgence and one I shamelessly gorge myself upon. I love remembering.
To lose one’s memory would be like losing one’s life.
To gaze unknowing on the face of a loved one would be cruelty beyond endurance.
We joke about memory. At school I am famous for not remembering all the little events that make up a primary day, such as school council meetings, putting away siesta beds etc. We talk about ‘senior’ moments.
We laugh when we walk into a room and completely forget why we are there, but what if on retracing our steps the memory never returned, what if we forgot the faces of our parents, or children, what if we forgot who we were?
For isn’t life made up of memories?
Oscar Wilde said that; ‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ If you have lost a diary and felt panic, imagine that feeling intensified a thousand fold. Imagine if you suffered from Alzheimer’s, that most cruel illness. This statistic from the Alzheimer’s Society should give us pause:
There will be over a million people with dementia by 2021 in the UK alone.
You can donate by accessing The Alzheimer’s Society website: www.alzheimers.org.uk