As far back as I can remember, I have always been terrible with names. But it is worse than that.
I seem to have skipped major moments of my childhood. I have vivid patches and then holes. As one of four children, there was much to remember and many points of view applied to every major event. But there are times when I have absolutely no connection to events that involved me. My brother tells of the time I sat on his ukulele and reduced it to sawdust. Who? Me? But I clearly remember the day I fell off the top of the slide and then rode my bike all the way home to tell Mom about my near death, losing-my-breath, experience.
Lest you add your own sinister interpretation to my tale, there was no trauma beyond the occasional spilling of milk that could have caused me to wipe out portions of my childhood life. I had a wonderful middle class childhood. I did have to share a room with my sister, but I’m not sure that counts as major trauma. I don’t have anything awful that needs forgetting, except that time I slammed my little brother’s finger in the front door. I will never forget that moment or the fact that I was mad about something and slammed it with a mean spirit. I am sure I was forgiven years later when I knelt upon that velveteen kneeler and confessed my sins to Monsignor Baum through that leather-and-furniture–polish-scented little door at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
But now I am a grandmother at 53 and I don’t want to forget any moment of the life that lies ahead or behind me. I wonder if I have been carrying the Alzheimer’s gene from birth; if sections of my brain that weren’t crammed full of math equations and Trigonometry were already failing. I fear for the ever widening gaps that might be filling my brain - erasing letters and words from my brain even as I sit here and type. And if my memories fade, who will remember that I never had a great memory, that I have always been this way.
I hope that if I fade, if some of my already feeble brain cells go dark, that all of the negative memories will be the ones that are first erased, the fears of failure, the mistakes I made as a mother, the words that slipped out unattended. I pray that if my memories fade, I will be left with only the good ones. And please, dear God, let me keep all of the funny stuff. I pray that my un-artistic brain ends up making my life into something that resembles a painting where everything is blurred and smudged in the form of a fine pastel–colored print. Perhaps this is at last how I too become a great artist like my son and sister.
I want to vividly remember the moment my children arrived, those moments of babyhood when they held to my shoulder for dear life, the smell of their freshly bathed skin, the moment they cried with joy at the Christmas puppy that appeared in a stocking. I want to forever prize my time in the delivery room with my daughter as she brought forth her own precious miracle. I need to hold on to that road trip across the country with our Basset Hound, when we stopped at every moccasin store seeking out new colors and styles. I want to remember my son releasing his artistic talent to the world. Will I remember that clay soldier that looked every bit like the ones unearthed in China, the one his sixth grade teacher refused to acknowledge? Every painting that he has done is indelibly inscribed on my heart – but will I remember them? I don’t want to forget the moment he turned scraps of fabric into a gorgeous ottoman in less than a day. I want to remember our stop that day in a casino in Reno, when we didn’t try our hand at the slot machine but conspired instead to place a $5 bill in a corner of the casino hoping to make one person that day feel lucky.
And finally, I want to remember the snow that fell that day in May, the day before the accident I can never forget.