Last night I got together with four of my best friends. We gathered to celebrate one of our birthdays. We’re all in our fifties now — some of us more solidly than others. We’re tamer than we once were, choosing mocktails over bottomless bottles of wine. Post-pandemic it’s enough to simply get together. We don’t need a weekend trip or a restaurant for it to feel special.
Last night we talked about memory — about dementia in particular. Several of us are noticing it in our parents. We’re at a place right now where we’re noticing it a little bit in ourselves too. Not necessarily dementia, but the loss of memory.
I remember some things so clearly, yet other experiences are completely gone. The other night our houseguests reminded me that we’d had a whole pig at our wedding. “Really?,” I’d exclaimed, “I have no memory of that.” I think I didn’t remember because of all the things on that momentous day the food was the least important.
But I say that phrase all the time, “I have no memory of that.” My daughter worries that I have early Alzheimers. She wants me to get checked out. But there are no other signs other than the fact that I simply don’t remember certain things.
I wonder if, over time, we simply adapt. The storage lockers of the mind get full and we have to purge some memories. I’ve started to do this in my home with memorabilia. I recently got rid of all of my old dolls. My grandfather used to bring me a doll from every county he visited.
I had dolls from all over the world and used to love lining them up and looking at them. As I gave them one last lookover before putting them in the Goodwill pile, I had a flush of excitement, a feeling of happiness and contentment to see these dolls from my childhood. But I gave them away. There’s just no room for them anymore.
In place of the storage room where I kept the dolls and other mostly unnecessary stuff, we created a new room, an office for me. It’s a beautiful clean space free of clutter, a fresh new space where I can create new memories.
Last night at dinner with my friends I was impressed with how one of my friends recalled all the details from certain movies and television shows from our youth. “I have no memory of that,” I said over and over. I don’t remember details anymore — the restaurants I ate at, the parties I attended, even some friendships. But I do remember the feelings I’ve had at different stages of my life.