Memory is an often discussed subject these days. In the computer world we discuss memory in terms of volume how much memory and use terms like megabytes and terabytes.
In human terms we discuss memory as short term and long term and use terms like semantic, autobiographic and episodic.
Among my middle aged friends we discuss memory in terms of, "Man, I have to write down everything these days or I'll forget it."
The complexity of the human body never fails to amaze me, especially the human brain and the thing we call memory. I have an excellent long term memory but need a calendar to keep me on track day-to-day.
As weird as it may seem, I can remember some incidents and circumstances back as far as age two.
At first I thought I may be imagining things but I drew a rough outline of the house we lived in that year 1950 and my mother confirmed it was relatively accurate.
My oldest brother was born in May 1950 and died shortly after birth. While I cannot remember those circumstances, I do remember staying with my grandparents for a few days which I assume occurred when Duane was born.
The next year my second brother was born and I remember that day in some detail.
Traumatic events can lodge themselves deeply in our memory. In the summer of 1954, when I was six years old, we were visiting an aunt and uncle. Late in the evening their party line telephone rang. Back then a late evening call was unusual and often bad news.
I watched as my aunt answered the phone and then began crying. When she told my uncle and my parents about the call all of them began crying. I had never seen my parents cry before.
The bad news was that their cousin's 3-year-old son had drowned in a stock tank on the family farm that afternoon. I can even remember details from the funeral including the special music. Whenever I hear the old hymn "Under His Wings" I am reminded of the tragedy.
I can remember my mother walking me to school on my first day of kindergarten and along the way admonishing me to not lie in school. I couldn't figure out why she would say such a thing but before kindergarten was over I had been reprimanded for telling tall tales during Show and Tell time.
Midway through second grade we moved to the next town down the road. Being the new kid in school is a memorable experience which I would realize again two more times before reaching high school.
In particular, I remember the first day in my new second grade. When it was time for reading lessons I learned that the class has been divided into two reading groups the Elephants and the Fairies. Considering that I was a head taller and considerably heavier than my new classmates it was no surprise that I was assigned to the Elephants reading group. That was okay with me.
My father had an extraordinary memory as do several others on his side of the family. When I visited Dad in the nursing home one Sunday he didn't recognize me. Masking the awful feeling of the moment, I assured Dad I was his oldest son. Ten minutes later he was telling me what he was doing on that date 45 years earlier when he was a young soldier in Paris.
Like the memories of my cousin's drowning, not all memories are positive. Unforgotten childhood incidents can have negative implications. While I cherish most of my vivid childhood memories there are some I'd rather forget.
Along those lines, I would like to forget the times that I was unkind to someone, particularly my parents. I had a big mouth as a kid and I knew how to use it. Unfortunately.
All of those memories good and bad have shaped me into the person I am today for good and for bad.
Japanese writer Haruki Murakami put it this way: "Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart."