Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found

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She unlocks the old paneled door. This is my house. We walk in. I look in my pockets for a key to our flat. No key. Yes, Prue. Prue reminds me. We might be fine for each other. It was best of all for the kids. Out of their way. It feels familiar. Besides, I work in black and white.

I need someone who dresses in black and white. She works in the City—smart, funny. Ideal for me. She will bring me to a new level of despondency. I never lie. The woman eating an apple, which is actually the head of a child. I used to watch my mother paint gentle, ravishing images filled with love. Why is negative more real than positive? Do I write about my family like this? Do I remember my family? From hello, I miss you, to goodbye, I love you, I know more about a person I met an hour ago.

Pop art? Kenneth may be schizophrenic. He was diagnosed before you went away. You were talking to your friend Vada about him. I look around at the kitchen. We have earthquakes, fires, and total destruction, and get to start all over again every couple of years. How can I have guilt without memory?

By not calling my mother, of course. This could be to show me how hurt she is. Or because she is gone. The loss of memory is refined denial. My mother will see this loss of memory as a new act of aggression; having lost my memory, I may have lost most of her life. No one really needs to know about it. A hot day in London, I say to myself, can that be true?

I remember so little of who he is or what he does. Well-named room; it is here that I become who I think I am today. Why should it be surprising, that the hard things to deal with are the most difficult to remember? You know that. Throw a number into the air. She is. You sent her packages in the last weeks that she loved—some drawings. She thought you were very dear. Or, rather, used to do. I can imagine if not exactly remember that she got the hard part. Rudolph sent the test results to Christopher Earl, a neurologist who will interpret the brain scan.

I have three attacks on the way to see Dr. I must send one of their cream flannel cricket uniforms to Justin. The same way a Londoner would suddenly notice an English accent on Madison Avenue. Our doctor is tall, stylish, and handsome and stands up to greet us. Peter shows me his letter from Chris Earl. They write to each other using their first names. Chris is an excellent Christian name.

Definitive, one might say. They probably meet for lunch, have port and one of those plates of everything horrid you cut off a pig. And he does not eat anything that is not chocolate, or ice cream, or has not been slaughtered or hooked. He always keeps one clean credit card to refresh the self-esteem during dark days. We sit down and survey the menus. You hear them over everyone, making dates with someone else. This is the kind of place Brooke and Josie and I would go to at home. I order a fruit punch. They have paper tablecloths. I look at the menu.

They have dozens of pockets and these fabric racks that look like bullet slots, where I keep pens. That was the time a woman came over and told me that one of my books changed her life, and Brooke wondered who the hell she thought I was. I miss people I actually know. They have a resemblance, and you were having lunch with Brooke in New York when you saw that woman. It was Esther Ferguson. I like drawing. I make a drawing of Stuart dancing with the Nigerian model. Drawing is easy now, not writing. It used to be the other way around.

People say we have a happy marriage. Except in these two places. First, Stuart cannot watch any one TV channel at a time. He says people who do watch one channel at a time have one-track minds. And second, I do not comprehend how you can love family effectively from a great distance, as he seems to do. We are quiet, watching stylish colonials in black outfits have lunch with their phones. Your concepts all fit. It would help you understand where your beliefs come from.

But not sure enough to be absolutely sure.

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You asked me where I wanted to go, and I said. And we walk home fast on streets with no shop windows, not talking. He glances at me, and I glance back at him. He must feel that our lives will be empty now—made even darker with my blank presence.

Past forgetting : my memory lost and found

The dentist who rents an office on our main floor is just coming in. In England you express concern or convey friendliness through references to weather or holidays. I hate walking. This epilepsy doctor has asthma. Or drugs? I used to take speed a lot. Remember when you could only get it in little packets of bitter white powder? I was sure I was going to die. But L. This has no connection with drugs. You have always had epilepsy. I remember Carol Steinman had epilepsy. No one wanted to be alone with her.

She was never allowed to be with us. You were warned when you did see her not to upset her. She was like special crystal, she just might fall off and shatter into terrifying, shaking pieces. Could I see your notes? There are ten letters. How nice. One calls me a sixty-four-year-old authoress. Like ten years older than I am. Do I hear another offer? So it goes. First of all, most patients find that any mental stress triggers attacks. Even minor attacks are debilitating and affect the memory. He tries to look as if this is something he feels like doing.

Put me somewhere, and go. Maybe this has happened to show me. So just take me to the ocean, throw me in. You like Chicago when Studs puts you on his show. He stops the car and we are on the other side of the Thames, looking out at Big Ben. He sighs, impatient. I waited to hear my father telling the writers to listen for, what to watch out for, when to go back in time and to come forward. The suit is out now.

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But telling him that is impossible. My mind just needs some pushups. Judith and I are eating lunch. Or do you want to whine? Then I check which one I like best. With different-colored tags, I do the same system with almost everything. Talent, for Lennie, for Gore Vidal and all the writers he gathered in his house on Sunset Plaza every Sunday afternoon, was the thing that always came first. I think of my brain like a twisted ankle. It will get stronger.

I will exercise it carefully. This is built in; worrying about what to wear comes before writing, before worrying what to make for dinner. Ask Joy what to wear. Then tell me, just be comfortable. Is that so terrible? One of my friends says she cannot have sex with Jewish men. They are both too familiar and too couched in the emotional vernacular of their own superiority—and of our superiority. We are like their mothers, and they are like our fathers. Navy blue. And high heels. Can I walk in high heels? I must know this. Of course he would have.

You tell me. Jeremy was twenty-one when you and I met. At nineteen I married, left home, and began to learn about life. My mother sent me long, unraveling letters from New York when they moved there just after Jeremy was born. I hated that my parents had left. I was too busy missing home myself. She cried. I fed my parents lasagna, which my mother-inlaw taught me to cook. My parents had never seen lasagna. This was gangster food, and not Jewish gangsters.

There is no precedent for dealing with the new lives of parents. No protocol for accepting the ways of the new family. Stuart shows me pictures from the visit and I remember moments. He cannot hate me that much if he bites where I have bitten. I watched Jeremy listening to his phone. That is how I choose to see it. I go with Judith sometimes to pick Noah up after Hebrew school. Joanne will know and will have a way to fix how I feel. Or do I have to find my own trail here?

This bar mitzvah is in Stanmore at the end of the Jubilee Underground, the long north train out of London. This is not a chauvinist remark. It is the truth. For the first months, long before writing became a consideration, I practiced reading with Agatha Christie. One book a week. Finally, it was two a day. I am a detective. I see myself slinking along the walls of each day, holding up the magnifying glass. Catch the details and the day will stay with me longer.

Just when I think my memory is all there, I hit a blank patch—always, always, always around the kids. At the temple, the men are wrapped in white and blue shawls, some wear derby hats, some yarmulkes. The men fling shawls over their shoulders with flair like women with those cashmere wraps Valerie Wade is crazy about.

Some drape them over their heads. We are leaning over, watching the men freely praying, chanting, and wandering. No wonder we drive everyone crazy. Is this Hebrew for memory? Remembering creates; remembering has action; you must transform the past into a contemporary imperative. And remembrance, here, involves a response to right a wrong. I remember in order to desist, to stop doing something.

I shall hold our remembrance. I must remember the covenant I make. That sounds lively, full of surprises. This makes memory more like the act of an artist or storyteller, something to be drawn up. Catching most memories is something like that. Petits mals feel like that, like tumbling down through a mirrored tunnel of reflections of past events. I never saw it face to face. She was married five times. She was between the third and the fourth when we met.

She draped the layers of pasta for her lasagna like a stripper. The two families dueled for us. The best and the worst thing that happened for our marriage, so that it lasted long enough for us to have our children, was that he was sent off to Korea with his ship. I wrote around ninety letters a month to my overseas husband, and he wrote me back. His distance was also his particular appeal. When he came home from the service, he was back with his mom, riveted by her forceful, hearty seduction. The main thing that had to be just right was continuity. No revisions. Which is how she wanted it.

You had to have it once a week, like you had to have deli on Sunday. Her or me. Staying power. During the sixties, when I remembered everything with the anger of my fierce, alerted sexuality, I remembered that I felt rebuffed, deeply wounded. Now, with more distance and the deeper perception of time and satisfaction, I think my father was startled and aware enough to see my competitive games with my mother and to catch his own reaction.

So he was short with me. Daughters and fathers, sons and mothers; we captivate each other. We are our own other. I could drive like my father and cook like his mother. These, my mother thought, were not class things to do. Why be seen driving when you could have a chauffeur? Why cook or take care of children? She taught me early, I think, to keep me from attaching totally to my father.

In I moved to New York. I had no money. My second husband had gone there to find better poker games. I had learned everything I needed to know about the most important things from my parents: romantic love, how to use my talents, and how to work a room. This is why I probably never set much store by schools; neither did my parents.

I liked the bits of fame I could grab. Life was superficial, extravagant, edgy. I held them close until they showed interest in the outside world, and then I brought that world in on them in my version of their terms. They were my right and left arms, sunny companions. I raised them in the sentimental Marxist style of hippies—a platform I fell off every time I got my hands on money and near a Mustang. Then we became the Three Musketeers, triumphant with our cars. I rationalized that I had no use for the closed-in temples and the dusty attitudes; God was in the trees, the curves of the mountains, and you could get close to God best driving on those mountain roads in your car.

With the loss of memory goes the loss of preconception, the loss of references. Then, just when I think the door is locked to some area of my memory, I find a key and discover another rocky old road to climb. To reach some memories you just have to stretch harder, practice longer, then try again. A lot like the laps in that pool. And I remember the pool even as I think this through. My father died when I was a kid, which made me mad. He died at thirty-four. I had trouble finding the grave.

It was covered with shrubs, vines, and dirt. I found a service to keep the grave clean, but I never went back. I think of my father around some of his birthdays. As time goes on, he has a different role in my memory, do you know what I mean? When I was thirty-four, I saw him as he was when he died.

I felt as if I was losing an older brother. Later, I felt like I lost a younger brother. How old is your son? This is not memory. This is not being able to do subtraction in my head. That was Rough years. Can Noah come over? She reminds me when they arrive that he has homework to do. I need to see where my chapters go. Not to mention the characters and their situations, which become more baroque each week as I forget what they have been doing.

What sort of memory difficulties might I experience?

An economic issue is whether you have the money to get the Porsche. But the Porsche has a picture that makes the spelling stick in his mind. Even in mine. The elephants are Republican. They are wearing narrow ties, fanning themselves with folded-up copies of The Wall Street Journal. Where did I find that?

He can tell you where he lives without even thinking about it. But I spell better. I pull a chair over to the window. I gather the fabric falling down from the valance into my hand and put it back up with lassos of double-sided tape. Such as bar mitzvahs. I set up a scene. I ball up pages. Throw them across the room. I can call that man who copies instruments, objects, or is it genes? Look it up. Yes, here he is—John Halloran. He inserts real things into a computer and reproduces them. I call Jeremy. What are you doing up? The tone mellows and the beat slows way down.

I have written to two of my characters. I have heard nothing. You are sexy, interesting.

Not funny. I would never sleep with a funny man. Mayer and the original moviemakers. My father used to sit around a table like this with his writers, Millard Kaufman, Allen Rivkin or Norman Corwin, talking characters alive. I like being part of your unconscious. Always has been. As he leans back in the chair, one of the lights in the wobbly old sconces by the fireplace goes out.

Sitting here now, Stuart crosses his ankles exactly the way he did when he was four. His mother gave me a picture of him then. As we grow older, we look more like ourselves as children, or maybe we just try to recall all the possible ways we can be appealing. Little gestures and expressions that got surefire reactions. He is not conscious of these things; I probably am when I do them. Is that true? I recognize disinterest, like animals being trained to go through a maze by electric shock. In this case, the door of interest snaps shut, so I turn to another subject.

Have I even forgotten how thinking normally works, that it does fold over as you talk? I knew it was what Gloria would have said to you. I look around the workroom. Did I put all this here in case the memory went? Mostly I remember she was always there. Am I here for him? Do I register what he does with a day? Does he know how little I remember of our years together? How many, how few those may be? I knew how much time her work took and it always got done.

Her hands were always filled with wool, or food—challah, knaidlech, matzo balls—twisting, smoothing, forming it. When she lived with us during the war before my father got her a flat of her own in Westwood, she taught my mother to crochet and knit. I look up at the top shelf across from me.

Rocksinger and the Age of Longing. One by one I take them down. So, in this way, I should be no stranger. The first book was a cheeky, naive little memoir about life in fifties Hollywood. How blind I was. I see a smothered kid here in With a Cast of Thousands, which was written in It was right before I burst out. I wrote about the budget my father showed me for his first years, which included entries for gum, cigarettes and writing paper, the R.

Her closest friends were gay, rude, and played around. I have my grandmother in every book, from the Witch Neva Sheba in my second book, a fictional autobiography of Jacqueline Onassis edited by her godfather, whom I modeled on Gore Vidal, a friend of my own godfather , to the Rocksinger with the silver hairbrush in my fifth book can you have a lover and a grandmother all at once?

Grandma was in Perdido. We can walk. I should simply write about my grandmother and her life in Hollywood with my father and his young friends. Do not smother him. There has to be a time where we can each see our own days. I know the ending. Your own story is changing as your needs of it change.

The emphasis is different. This scene from A Farewell to Arms is set in a wooden mountain house near water. I made some money, which I spent in about an hour and a half; as if money would fix it. Band-Aids on deep knife wounds. You liked living by another writer and you said it reminded you of a canyon in L. We lived there for the first three years we were married.

You were also showing what you could do. Those were not easy times for your father and mother. They came for Thanksgiving the year before we married, the year before he died. It was to get us used to the idea. I was used to complete independence and you were used to having total control. Light from the skylight falls on him as he comes in and sets down the bag he carries with maps and stuff on the round breakfast table.

But there never was enough. This is some kind of triumph. I am here in London talking to Stuart—and I am seeing my father in Connecticut. I could not do that a few weeks ago, could not layer thoughts of the past with conversation or an awareness of the present. One of the problems with this theory is that it is difficult to demonstrate that time alone is responsible for declines in the recall.

In real-world situations, many things are bound to happen between the formation of a memory and the recall of that information. A student who learns something in class, for example, might have hundreds of unique and individual experiences between learning that information and having to recall it on an exam. Was forgetting the date that the American Revolutionary War began due to the length of time between learning the date in your American History class and being tested on it, or did the multitude of information acquired during that interval of time play a role?

Testing this can be exceedingly difficult since it is nearly impossible to eliminate all the information that might have an influence on the creation of the memory and the recall of the memory. Another problem with decay theory is it does not account for why some memories fade so quickly while others linger.

Novelty is one factor that plays a role in why some things are remembered while others are forgotten. For example, you are more likely to remember your very first day of college than all of the intervening days between it and graduation. That first day was new and exciting, but all the following days probably seem quite similar to each other.

Sometimes the memories are there, we just can't seem to access them. Two of the basic reasons for this failure in memory retrieval are related to encoding failures and lack of retrieval cues. A common reason why we don't remember information is because it never made it into long-term memory in the first place. Try this well-known demonstration first used by researchers Nickerson and Adams.

Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found

From memory, try to draw the back side of a penny. Once you are done, compare your drawing to an actual penny. Are you surprised by how poorly you recalled what the back of a penny looks like? While you probably had a good idea about the overall shape and color, the actual details were probably pretty fuzzy.

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Since you don't actually need to know what the back of a penny looks like to differentiate it from other coins, you only really focus on the information you do need—the overall size, shape, and color of the coin. You aren't able to recall what the back of a penny really looks like because that information was never really encoded into memory in the first place. Other researchers have suggested that sometimes information is actually present in memory, but that it cannot be recalled unless retrieval cues are present. These cues are elements that were present at the time that the actual memory was encoded.

For example, remembering the details of your first date with your spouse might be easier if you smell the same scent that your partner was wearing on that first date. The retrieval cue the perfume was present when that memory was created, so smelling it again can trigger the retrieval of those memories. Numerous theories exist to explain how and why we forget. In many situations, several of these explanations might account for why we cannot remember. The passage of time can make memories more difficult to access decay theory , while the abundance of information vying for our attention can create competition between old and new memories interference theory.

While forgetting is simply a part of life, there are a number of things that we can do to improve our memories and become better at recalling information. Next, take a closer look at some of the different things you can do now to improve your memory. Have you ever wondered what your personality type means? Sign up to get these answers, and more, delivered straight to your inbox. Brown, J. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Nickerson, R.

Long-Term Memory for a Common Object. Cognitive Psychology , ;11 3 : Willingham, D. Cognition: The Thinking Animal 3rd ed. More in Theories. So how do we know when something has been forgotten? There are a few different ways to measure this:. Recall: People who have been asked to memorize something, such as a list of terms, might be asked to recall the list from memory.

By seeing how many items are remembered, researchers are able to identify how much information has been forgotten. This method might involve the use of free recall recalling items without hints or prompted recall utilizing hints to trigger memories. They think forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. But not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer's.

Other causes for memory problems can include aging, medical conditions, emotional problems, mild cognitive impairment , or another type of dementia. Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don't remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses.

These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems, like Alzheimer's disease. Certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems.

Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found
Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found
Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found
Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found
Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found
Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found

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