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’?