Mary Beth Writes

“I’m getting so old. I just can’t remember anything anymore.”

Okay, I understand and accept that forgetfulness is weird and awkward. We talk to someone about this movie and that house repair and that small restaurant from which we ordered amazing food a few weeks ago and it feels as if we are talking with 95% of the words we used to know. What was that guy’s name? Where did I read that really powerful thing about political strategy now?

So, first of all, let me just say what I always want to say. I frequently got tongue-tied in fast-moving conversations when I was 25 and when I was 40 and I still do. If we are going to careen down a bunch of conversational lanes we need to give our brains a chance to keep up. Recipes and the name of kids we knew in high school and that chemical that gets rid of beetles but doesn’t hurt birds and the name of the person running in our district and ...

If we are going to free-form talk, our brains are going to hiccup. I find this strategy works: Say what you can spit out right now and then laugh. If what you are forgetting is important - send a fast email to yourself and the answer will show up in your brain's in-box sooner or later. Like, oh yeah, it was Liam Neeson who said, “What I have is a very special set of skills…” Though I forget what movie that was.

It’s kind of a compliment if your brain can’t always keep up with all the stuff you learned in your long and busy life.

But I also wonder about this.

What if instead of denigrating ourselves for what we can’t remember – what if part of the job of being as old as we are now – what if we are SUPPOSED to revisit memories? We’ve been a lot of places and experienced a lot of amazing and awful adventures. If we don’t spend time remembering those places and times and people, then are they just dead? Is there benefit to us as individuals and to our communities to spend some time remembering where we’ve been and who we knew?

I’m not talking about telling our tales to the young. The young are pretty busy. If they want to know, they can ask.

But for the sake of respecting your own path, where did you play when you were a kid? Do you remember wonderful birthday parties you had or hosted? Did you travel by yourself in your life? What was a complicated meal you tried to cook? Did you see the sun rise? Did you ever cry when everyone around you was happy and you had to leave the room? Did you give money to a person on the street when they asked?

I’m not suggesting we wallow in memories.

But since the next week or two are going to be anxious, let me suggest taking minutes here and there to remember some of the places you’ve been, some of the adventures you had, some of the excellent people you knew, some of the battles you lost and the ones you won.

Because those are your roots.

They are our roots.

We need our roots now.

Comments

I especially like the thoughts/memories that come out of nowhere and the dreams that bring back a particularly wonderful person or time in our life. You have a mind like an elephant. I envy that.

With age comes history of memories lots more!!

I remember Sister Valerie my second grade teacher at St. Rose School, she celebrated my artistic talents at an early age, she also held me back a year.( Something that should have happened earlier, too long of a story for here ) I love her to this day because she passed me the following year. ( yes I got this wonderful woman two years in a row ) I was her favorite for two years... She was the first person in my short life to tell me that *I* had a special talent and that *I* was important to the world in my own special way... You don't forget those words or those people who tell you that your light shines in a very special way... I used those special talents to maneuver my way through life as a mostly self employed person doing many creative things all the way to retirement... And my light still shines brightly...
Mary Beth's picture

I have noticed that I can discern now, all these many years later, who was a good teacher and who was so-so (at least for me) because when I remember some of them, I smile. Even now. Mrs. Chisholm. Mrs. DeHoffe, Paul Hessert, Stan Hallett. Two elementary level teachers. Two seminary professors.

This post is timely for me. One of the gifts of this pandemic time for me has been reconnecting through zoom with two childhood friends from my country. One is still living in Portugal, the other has been living in Canada as long as I have been in the US , 48 years! It is such an extraordinary gift to fill in for each other’s memories! I shared this quote with them that I like: “Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of our own life and be taught by it”. (Polly B. Berends) This may well be the gift of this “locked down”time. A time to sit, to learn and to refresh each other’s memories!
Mary Beth's picture

What a very good quote. “Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of our own life and be taught by it”. As I was just cleaning up the kitchen, I was considering awful events in my life. And like you are saying, I wouldn't be who I am without coming through even those moments and days. I'm glad zoom and Facetime are teaching us how to find old friends as well as allowing us to keep up with the ones we have now.

Such a timely post. I have been doing a lot of time traveling this path month, sharing with my daughters stories of family that have been passed down to me, or events that I or their father lived. There seems to be a deep need to remember: past struggles and their survival, past celebrations and the laughter. I recently lost a beloved aunt, the world is a much sadder place without her in it. The lessons I learned from her, the gift her love gave me, and the joy we shared at spending time with each other. I spent 2 weeks with her in Texas, right before restrictions set in, she needed to share our family's history, I needed to receive that history to pass on. We would be sharing our anxiety with each other this week. Thank you as always for your words. Patricia/FL
Mary Beth's picture

10 days before this intense and divisive election - it helps to remember we are certainly not the first to live through awful times under awful leaders. And when we can get stories of our own families through the words of our own people who are not given to making everyone into a hero or villain.. it helps root us. I'm sorry for the loss of your good aunt. I'm glad you got to spend time with her.

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