Hoping to Rekindle My Memory

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 4:21am

Hoping to Rekindle My Memory

by Parker J. Palmer (@parkerjpalmer),  weekly columnist

Older folks will understand why I love this story. Younger folks can read it as "a preview of coming attractions!"

A man about my age was walking down the street when he saw another man approaching. As they got face-to-face, the first man said, "I'm sorry. I know we've met. But for the life of me, I can't remember your name." The second man looked at his shoes for a moment. Then he looked up and said, "How soon do you need to know?"

Certain kinds of memory loss are no laughing matter; ask anyone who's close to someone who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. But for many of us, normal aging involves memory glitches that create some pretty funny situations. Take it from a 75-year-old who knows!

At least once a day, I go upstairs to get something, only to forget what I'm after by the time I get there. So I go back down, hoping to rekindle my memory by returning to the site of my original inspiration. Then I realize I can't even remember where I was when I embarked on this ill-fated adventure!

An old Irish saying declares, "There are three things that are real: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension, so we must do what we can with the third." I am so totally down with that!

OK, where was I? Oh, right. Here, for laughs — plus a dash of poignancy — is "Forgetfulness," another great Billy Collins poem...

Forgetfulness
by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

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" the moon in the window seems to have drifted out of a love poem that you used to know by heart."...how beautiful...if only I could remember this...

Just what I needed this morning after spending yesterday at Duke geriatrics clinic

what are you doing at Duke Geriatrics Clinic? I'm in a study at Duke, too. Being enrolled in a particular database makes me eligible for studies on reducing risk of Alzheimer's Disease and I enrolled in one this spring.

You brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for putting such beautiful words to what can be a difficult transition. The poetry in truth is what can make these moments more mystical and spiritual rather than a loss.

Love this reflection with which I so resonate. Also thank you for your generous support of Courtney and her first column. You two are entwined souls.

How beautiful.

How funny my old age is too...I was highlighting this article to print out when my 46 year old son-in-law called. Soon as I answered the phone, there was a pause. He said, "Oh my goodness, I forgot what I was going to say. I'll hang up and call you right back when I remember."

beautiful ending to Collins poem - for my mom who has travelled down that road and can no longer remember how to dress herself .....

I'm experiencing this first hand with my mother. During my recent visit with her, I said "I have your Hands". I will probably have her memory, or lack there of, too.

oLD JOKE. wONDERFUL POEMN, ONE OF MY FAVORITIES. iT'S GREAT TO SEE IT SHARED BY THIS COLUMNIST. tHANK YOU.

sO MUCH TRUTH HERE. nONE OF US LIKE TO ADMIT IT BUT i USED TO RECALL THE NAMES OF PERFORMING ARTISTS, MUSICAL COMPOSITIONS ... AT THE PROVERBIAL DROP OF THE HAT. nOW i HAVE TO THINK HARDER ... SOMETIMES I FIND REMEMBER, OTHER TIMES NOT SO. i WISH SOMEONE WOULD COME UP WITH A WAY TO ADD A "CHIP" TO OUR BRAIN TO ENHANCE THE MEMORY PROCESS. wHERE IS BILL GATES WHEN YOU NEED HIM!

One reassurance i find as i experience the normal forgetfUlness of age is the Support of friends as We forget together. SometImes when we've all forgotten something we pull out iPhones and race to google the answer. I guess it's a Lucky time to age!

This comment made me smile. It's true isn't it, two heads are better than one. Thank goodness for siblings and freindships.

Love this. It does my heart good.

the apparent association of Memory loss and age are all to often a combined product of an overly self conscious fear that it may be happening fueled and encouraged by an anti-aging anti-elder culture. it does happen to some,not denied. but in reality for most of us we forget little more than we always did but it now frightens us because we're being told its a function of age...and we begin to see what we expect/fear to see. i write this at 71 and still learning...and what we choose to remember as we grow changes as we deepen...stay thirsty my friends

Thankfully I do remember some very important authors and books: Parker Palmer. The Promise of Paradox. The Company of Strangers. Thank you, thank you for insiration that shaped my ministry and my life.

apples