March 18, 2011

Forgetting And Remembering

Are you familiar with the saying, "You'd forget your head if it wasn't attached to your neck" and variations thereof? I often think that, if it weren't a saying that's older than I am, it could have been written expressly for me. While my maternal grandmother died before I was born, two of her sisters were very close to my mom and were like grandmothers to me and my brother. From them, I heard that phrase a LOT in my youth and, really, it hasn't changed much.

I forget and lose things everywhere. I've lost (temporarily and permanently) more jackets and hoodies than any one person ever should. I've had to drive back to hotels to get some vital item that I left behind (usually in the bathroom) on more than one occasion, and have had to ask them to mail things to me if I'd traveled too far by the time it was remembered. I've misplaced a drivers license, only to have it resurface months after I'd paid to replace it. I've lost enough earrings to supply a small store for one-eared people. I forget the names of people I've known for years during conversation and have had to explain a few times that calling someone "what's-his-name" isn't meant as a slight or any disrespect, I just can't pull the name out of my brain when I need it. I pretty much forget what day it is almost every day. I put things "away" in a really good place, then can't remember where that place is. I've forgotten to pay bills, take the credit card at the store, take the keys before leaving the house or the car, turn off the stove, blow out a candle, return library books, take my medicine and go to appointments; those things that all of us forget from time to time.

I have a knack for being able to remember only the first letter in the name of someone or someplace. I can almost guarantee that if you've known me in-person for any length of time, you've heard me say, "Oh, you know, that starts with an 'N'," or something just like that. Probably more than once.

One of my favorites is forgetting something I just said not five seconds before. That always makes me feel good.

Not far behind that is starting a post with an idea in mind and not remembering what the point was a few paragraphs in. Fortunately, this time I do recall what the point is, but my list of posts is littered with half-finished drafts that seemed like a good idea but then I went off on a tangent and made a complete mess of it before losing the thread completely.

The irony is that there are so many things that I'd like to forget but simply can't, no matter how much time has passed, how much rationalizing I've done over it, or how much I know something wasn't really my fault. Usually things that are a result of my having done something stupid.

Like being around nine years old and making an observation to my mom about someone at another table in a restaurant (quietly, I'd thought) and the feeling of utter mortification and shame that swept through my body when I realized that the person had heard me and someone at their table said, "How rude!" loud enough for me to hear.

Like being in middle school and forgetting something (I can't even remember what it was anymore) and being told to call my parents about it, but I either forgot to do that (duh) or just didn't feel like it. When I was asked about it, I told my mom that I hadn't been allowed to use the phone in the school office to call. She went back to the vice president and railed against my being denied the use of the phone and backed me up all the way. Weeks later, when it came up again, I admitted that I'd lied about not being allowed to use the phone. The expression on my mother's face when she realized what I'd done and the position I'd put her in left me feeling about an inch tall.

Like being in college and forgetting about Mother's Day one year and knowing how hurt my mom was by that.

Like the last 48 hours of my mom's life when I practically lived at the hospital and every moment of her last few minutes is etched on my brain for me to relive again and again. Wondering if we could have done something different. Wondering if I hadn't left to go to lunch that day when she began to decline, could we have caught what was happening to her? Seeing the grief on my brother's face when we knew she was really gone.

But even with of all the things I've managed to forget over the years and will no doubt continue to forget, remember, and forget again, there is one thing that I will never, ever forget.

March 18th was the day that brought my mom, Betty Ann Burns, into the world and it was so much a better place for having her here.