I try really hard sometimes to remember things about my mom when I was a kid, and I can’t. And so I try even harder. I’ll shut my eyes. I’ll turn off the tv or turn down the radio in the car and try to focus every bit of my energy on remembering what it is I want to remember, and I can’t. And I get frustrated because they are big things like birthdays or holidays or how our house was decorated. Really big things I think I should remember. And I can’t. And it pisses me off.
Then I’ll be walking down the street, like I was last night, talking to someone and the dumbest thing pops into my mind and I can’t believe I remember it. Last night I remembered being a kid and having the flu. I had that awful, achy all over, don’t want to eat or drink or do anything kind of flu.
And it’s made worse because you’re young, like 7 or 8, and you don’t don’t have much mileage on your body, so you don’t know the signs it gives you for everything. You don’t always know when your little boy body is about to barf everywhere. I remember throwing up and then crying because I’d made a big mess all over the bed. My mom cleaned everything up, got me changed into clean clothes, and she rubbed my head and kept telling me it was ok to make a mess when you’re sick.
And I guess barf memories must live in a special, disgusting area of your brain, because thinking about that story made me remember a time when my brother, who was 4 or 5, was sick and sleeping in my mom and dad’s bed, and threw up all over the place. And he was crying because it scared him. And I was laughing at him for being scared of barf. Then he threw up again, and kept on crying because he was scared, and all the while I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought it was the funniest thing that he could be scared of throwing up. And there was my mom, taking care of my brother like she took care of me, only this time she was channeling both Florence Nightengale and some more sinister spirit who would turn and tell me to knock off the laughing and get the hell out of the room because I was making things worse.
There are so many important things I can’t remember, yet I can see in my mind’s eye my brother and I barfing all over every bed in the house. It’s crazy.
And that’s what I was thinking about all day today. How ridiculous it is what I can and cannot remember. Then I remembered I’d written something down about trying to remember things…
I have an amazing friend, Susan, who I was in the Peace Corps with and who gave me some advice about what it would be like to return home from America. It seemed so wise I scribbled it down it the back of a journal I was keeping about my travels. And it seems as true about today as it was back then: “Don’t be mad at yourself if you can’t remember things you thought you’d never forget. Don’t be mad if you can’t remember people, smells, names, or places that were important to you. Some things you will lose. Some things will come back slowly or when you don’t expect them to. A lot of people won’t understand what it’s like to love something like that and then feel like you’re losing it. But you aren’t losing it. When you love something that much, you can’t lose it.”