Thursday, February 16, 2012

Old Age

My college roommate, Alice, and her daughter came to visit us last week. They live in Colorado so we don't get to see them nearly enough. Alice is one of my oldest friends and seeing her last week really crystalized one thing: I am getting old and losing my memory.

I have always been extraordinarily proud of my memory. I am one of those people who remembers all kinds of details that most normal people allow to slip well past the recesses of their mind. Jeff and I actually had a minor little tiff about my memory last Sunday. We were having dinner with friends and someone mentioned the Disney movie, The Lion King, which happens to be one of Jeff's favorite movies. A few minutes into the conversation, I leaned over to Jeff and said in my best stage whisper: "I know the date I first saw the Lion King. It was January 7, 2008, and we watched it on a laptop in my old condo. I was running a fever that night."

Jeff's response (which provoked the "words" we shared later) was "and why are you telling me this?"

Oh, internet, my feelings were hurt. To me, it's a precious memory and I remember crying when Simba was dancing in the African sunset to that Elton John song about the circle of life. I actually remember the date because was the night my nephew was born, so right before we started the movie I called my sister to get all the gory details on birth. (Ok, I was also really crying, not for Simba, but for the part of me that felt sad that my little sister was beating in the race to do all the cool stuff procreate.)

After hearing about my sister's contractions and epidural, I settled in for a little Disney magic with Jeff. I don't expect him to remember the date, but I do expect him to show a little reverence for the steel trap that is my mind. Remembering things like that date or what I wore when Jeff and I went for our wedding cake tasting or when I ate quesadillas for the first time in Chicago (April 2002, Harmony Grill, Thursday night, 8:00 p.m. with Coley Gallagher and Steve Nakisher, and I was wearing a cute floral top from Gap and a pink pencil skirt from Filene's basement) makes me really happy. Those memories are links to my former self, which in turn help me appreciate (and have compassion for) who I am today.

During the visit with Alice, I found myself grasping for hazy memories-- names forgotten and events erased by time, stuck in the resin of my gray matter. She mentioned a former suitor of hers (Phi Delt, a few years older) for whom I have neither name nor hometown recorded in my mind. How can this be? I then spent about 7 hours trying to remember the name of a woman in our sorority whose face I can see so clearly-- actually, I can see her hair even more clearly, because it was the thickest, blackest hair I have ever seen. (Think Adele meets Texas in the early 1990s.) I swear her name was Maudi Wheatley, but Alice looked at me as if I had just asked her to recite Jaberwocky in Chinese.


"Maudi Weatley. Remember her? She pledged during her sophomore year and she had that amazing black hair and blue eyes. I think she was a Kappa Picker."

"I have no idea who you are talking about," Alice insisted.

"I could almost swear her name was Maudie Wheatley."

Shit. Maybe I am thinking of Phyllis Wheatley, the first African-American poet and writer to publish her work. How could I confuse Phyllis Wheatley with this phantom woman I am sure was in our sorority.

Now, I am constantly thinking about things I am sure I will soon forget, which is a really sure-fire way to fuck up the present. I wonder if or when I will forget all the details around my children's births. How long will I remember that Jeff and I had lunch at Cafe Baci on Wacker the day I bought my very first pregnancy test-- we dined on the salad trio, a Baci staple, and Jeff made a face when I told him about the pregnancy test, the expression of which can loosely be translated into, "Go ahead and take the test, Miss Crazy Town, you are not pregnant."

How wonderful it felt to be right for once!

Will I remember that about 10 hours before I peed on that test I watched McCain give his concession speech and I bawled as if I was a Republican-- great big heaving sobs and tears and heartache for poor McCain who seemed so sad and ashamed during that speech. As soon as the last tears spilled I fell into a deep sleep while sitting up and trying to stay awake to see Obama's speech. Will I remember that I was too hormonally saturated to hear the first man I ever voted for accept the presidency, even though I had been hysterial only 12 minutes earlier as I raptly listened to McCain?

And, what about Simon's auspicious beginnings? Will I remember that I was in a hotel in Oxford, Mississippi for an evidentiary hearing when I first got my period after Sadie's birth? Will I remember what the hell an evidentiary hearing is? Will I ever get to tell an adult Simon that I bought him some orange and blue shoes as soon as I found out I was having a boy? Or that I got to tell most of my beloved friends I was pregnant with Simon in person because we went to a wedding the day I found out I was pregnant?

So many details that may not matter at all to anyone except for me, but I already feel a sense of grief about any of it slipping away from me. When I really want to freak myself out, I think about how Alzheimer's runs in my family so I am genetically a time bomb. But I guess that's part of the reason why I blog: to memorialize the trivia and to tell the stories that live inside of me and pump through me like blood and breath. I would keep a diary but then how could I share it with all of you? Also, if there is a fire, I don't have to run back into the house and save the internet.

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