I’ve written many posts here about memory (Memory Revisited, Seeds of Memory, Storage Implies Retrieval, Memory). I’ve written even more about my brother Michael, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. I believe that I am writing from an honest place, but I think the passage of time has influenced me. For example, I used to describe my brother as autistic, nonverbal and retarded. Now I say low functioning. I mean the same thing, but perhaps I have eliminated the shock value when I substitute ‘low functioning’ for ‘retarded’.
Memory is important to me, as I have explained. I don’t want to whitewash my past; I don’t want to get wrapped up in it either – both my wife and my mother told me not to, and I try to listen to them as much possible – but I also don’t want to delude myself. I know that it must have been rough, but how rough could it have been? I’m relatively happy these days. I remember that some of the feelings I had back then were intense, but I can’t put myself in a state where I can feel what I felt then. This reminds me of the phenomenon of pain memory, where one does not have a memory of physical pain. Did I lose empathy for myself?
There are several things that one loses when one gets older. For instance, if I’m waiting for someone, I can’t stand there with my arms folded, tapping my foot and say impatiently, “While we’re young!” I used to love saying that; even though I don’t feel old, I just think how ridiculous that would sound coming out of my mouth now. Another indicator of age slapped me in the face recently, when I went to one of my composition books where I had been scotch taping and rubber cementing bits of paper. It was the original “cut and paste” job (ugh, another oldness reminder). I opened the book only to find there was no adhesion at all. The scotch tape turned into yellowed plastic strips and the rubber cement leached its rusty color through the page and gave up its stickiness.
Saving grace in saving things…
Below is a page from one of those composition books that I put together at the beginning of my project about Mike. Amazingly, all the paper strips remained in place. An unusual fact about this notebook is that there are no markings indicating the date that I made it. I believe it was probably made in the early-to-mid 1990s. A selection of recent writing about Mike can be found in these posts: Fences, A Visit to Willowbrook, Unreachable, Name This Photograph)
Do you think I have ‘honesty creep’?
As much as I rely on computer technology to publish my work, I still insist on doing things the ‘old’ way and writing initial drafts in longhand. For me there is something wonderful about journals, notebooks, and physical paper books in general. There is something very evocative about looking through an old and treasured journal, that really is lost in translation when it comes to looking back at virtual file catalogues.
There is so much honesty, and so much of you in what and how you write, and for that I admire you. Another thing that comes with age is the speed at which time seems to pass, and the burgeoning notion that there just isn’t enough of it in a day! Something to work on my part I think – redressing my perception of time.
Thanks, Maria. It might have been Erma Bombeck who said something about ‘every 15 minutes it seems like it’s breakfast’ when one gets old. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s the MASSES of people younger than me that is striking. I like to say that I’m not old, I’ve just been younger for a very long time.
Thank you for your kind words.
Good way of putting it Jack!
Enjoy your week.
You eliminate not only the shock value but the colloquial insult that attends “retarded.”
Thanks very much. I appreciate your comment!
I’m sure all of us are ‘behind’ someone else when it comes to being brilliant; but how many people could work so hard to achieve the everyday things most of us take for granted?
Thanks for the comment, Sisteranan. Not exactly sure what you mean, though. My brother never has struggled to accomplish anything, although I know there are those who do. They have my utmost admiration. Also I admire those who take care of people like my brother, who don’t know how to try.