Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why That Memory?

Memory is such a fickle thing. I can't remember where I put my car keys, but I had a memory spring into mind, totally unbidden, and fresh as if I'd had it happen yesterday.

There is an anniversary approaching. One year ago, my friend, April, was involved in a car accident. She hit black ice on her way to work and then hit a retaining wall. Had it not been for the airbags in her car, she would have been seriously injured. Her husband, Perry, took to Facebook to announce her accident. There was silence for hours for those of us too far away to be contacted quickly. It was evening before we learned she was shaken and bruised and very sore, but okay.

Why remember that? It came, like a flash, through my mind over the weekend; totally unbidden and quite unexpected. I wasn't really thinking about them. I think about my friends daily, offering a silent, "Hope you have a good day" to the ether in desire to send them good wishes. But actually thinking about them? No, I wasn't consciously. Suddenly, the event was just there, in the forefront of my memory and I could see, in my mind's eye, the photos Perry posted of the car.

Other memories came sweeping back last weekend. We got 6 inches of snow from Friday mid-morning to Saturday early morning. We were sent home around 2:45 so that those with longer drives would make it home in decent time. There is a school bus stop just north of the house. I heard the bus come by and stop.

I took the bus to school all my years from kindergarten to senior year. I did get a car in my senior year but sometimes it was needed by a parent so I would wind up taking the bus. We had a garage out by the road. It was strategically placed, I realized in later years, so that if you had to shovel to get out, you didn't have to shovel the long, long drive from the house to the road. We never used the garage as anything but storage so we still wound up shoveling.

You would stand in the garage, which faced north, to watch for the school bus as it headed up the road to the house. In the spring and fall, you'd stand out by the road unless it was raining. In the winter, the garage was a very necessary shelter from the cold.

As I watched the few kids who do ride the bus (This bus is for middle school kids.) get off, I remembered the cold. I remembered getting off as a storm was bearing down on us and I could feel the sting of wind-driven snow. I went to school during the last vestiges of my public school requiring female students to wear skirts or dresses. In the winter, we could wear pants under our skirts but those had to be removed when you got to school. I can remember times where we'd just grab our pants and go to the bus, either putting them on after we took our seats or carrying them home. It was such a hassle. If you chose not to put your pants on, your bare legs would be ice cold from the walk to the house after getting off the bus.

I haven't thought of my elementary school winters in decades. I don't know what the trigger was for April's memory. The trigger for my grade school past was hearing and seeing the bus stop in the storm. I don't know that the memories mean anything overarching, like dreams do. They were just called up from the great filing cabinet that is my brain.

As I get older and I have days where I can't remember anything, I worry, as perhaps most of us my age do, that the demon of dementia is creeping up on me. I can't find my car keys. I leave my carefully prepared lunch on the stove. I do a load of wash and forget it's in the machine. I don't know where I put my slippers. I take a message because someone is on another call and forget to give it to them until 2 hours later. My doctor said several years ago when I voiced my concerns to him about memory loss, that I have reached the age where there is a lot to remember in my life. If I really stopped to think about the things I do and all the years I have of things I've done, I have much more to remember than a college student. Therefore, it stands to reason that in all the processing my brain does, some things are going to get lost.

What we suddenly remember, what suddenly springs to mind totally unbidden, is quite interesting. I can remember, with vivid detail, something I'd truly like to forget and the surprise birthday party my parents threw me on my 18th birthday is nowhere to be found other than, yeah, it happened. Today is my sister's birthday. I can remember a rather loud argument we had during preparations for her wedding. I'm trying to remember times when we had fun together in spite of the 6 year age difference. Those memories, rather than the yelling at each other, are what I long to remember. I've had my brother ask me, "Remember when x happened?" and I haven't a clue. How can he remember something like that when I can't remember, some days, what I had for breakfast?

So, I'm back to why remember that April's car accident anniversary is close? April is well, hale and hearty and has spent the past year in physical transformation. She's an incredible inspiration, "brave", for those who get the inside joke. Maybe this memory popping in the conscious is a mini reminder to tell her how much she means to those of us who know her, how what she's done this past year is nothing short of remarkable.

Now that I've done that, do you know what I did with that list of things I needed to get done today?

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


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