I don’t remember

I don’t remember life being this hard when I was a kid. Not this hard for me–I was a kid. We whined about life being hard (the six of us kids having to take turns making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an entire family of 8 and also doing the dishes and also scrubbing the toilet and dusting the top of the china hutch, and also weeding the half-acre garden where it seemed we grew carrots that were a foot long), but I wasn’t aware that the lives of the people surrounding me then were as hard as the lives of the people I know now, including, sometimes, my own. I’m not entirely sure if it was just by the grace of childhood oblivion–where it was seldom that people we knew were sick with mental or physical illness, passed away, or struggled with heartbreaking and seemingly insurmountable problems you just know won’t be resolved until the next life–or if the world is a harder, more brutal place. In any case, I am often painfully aware of the pain and suffering of others–those I know and those I don’t and of individuals and entire populations of people I read about in the news whose problems are so big I can’t even wrap my head around them. But my heart hurts and often feels so heavy.

I don’t remember names very well. This weakness is brought into sharp relief as my husband has a remarkable memory and not only has the name of every student in his class memorized well before the first day of school, but also remembers everyone from his college days (and beyond) and the birthdays of so very many of the students he has taught over the past 25 years. This is problematic when I bump into someone who clearly remembers me and I struggle to put a name to his or her face or to put them into the context of how I know them. One of the most recent and lingering cases is last spring at my college’s graduation. I met an older gentleman who seemed familiar and who clearly remembered me (trust me, it’s bad enough to struggle with memory, but even worse when someone significantly older than you has a better memory than yours). I smiled and said hello and my notoriously bad poker face must have clued him in to the fact I was at a loss of where to place him. “Remember, you did that filming with me?” I nodded and asked him how he’d been. And for the life of me I still have no idea what project I worked with him on or what… I am truly sorry for that.

Speaking of faulty memory, I am also entirely capable of remembering things that didn’t happen or remembering things differently than they happened. Those memories are sometimes more clear than things that actually happened. I just don’t often know the difference. But that is entirely another story…

[Day 2 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir]