Looking at this picture tightens up my chest a little bit.
I think it was first time I saw Michael crying. It was in his group home. He was always acting out, yelling or hitting himself. Sometimes he would take my hand and try hitting himself with it, usually with a laugh or a smile. Since Michael never spoke, I relished the contact. I don’t remember him crying.
When I started documenting Mike’s life, I kept written journals. Part of the reason for this admittedly, was to improve my photography. Did I have the right exposure? Was the lens appropriate? What about the f-stop and the depth of field? This was necessary for me to improve, in the days of film photography.
The other aspect of journaling that appealed to me was that I could capture on paper, what I was thinking at that moment. I would be able to read it later in life and remember what it was like before. The words would be worth a thousand pictures, to coin a phrase.
Memory can heal; it can smooth rough edges. Does it also fill in holes, like spackling the wall before painting? I think memory can create holes too, either by remembering something different from what happened or by forgetting something significant. My mother used to tell us that her mother chased her around the piano. My aunt told us that the piano was firmly ensconced against the wall. Just goes to show you. A true story needs accurate memory, and memory needs backup.
That was the plan, anyway. The book I just finished, The Man With a Shattered World, by A. R. Luria details the case of a soldier who suffered a brain injury during World War II (as I mentioned in a previous post). This man, although he had been well educated, could not remember anything from his recent past. As he struggled to recall meanings of the words in a sentence, he would forget the words he just read. Somehow his brain injury also prevented him from understanding relationships between words in simple sentences. But he discovered that he could write if he didn’t think about it. He wrote to think. He wrote more than 3000 pages over a period of 25 years. And yet he was unable to read what he wrote.
I have to dig out my journals. But I’m a little afraid. Afraid that I will remember too much; afraid that I have forgotten.
Kim Barnes dedicates one of her books with Barbara Kingsolver’s quote, “Memory is a kin to truth, but not its twin.”