Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Take good care of
your memory while you have it
Memory is an amazing and mysterious gift.
At age 76 my memory amazes me. Though I perceive that it is gradually failing,
I still remember things that surprise me. But often the things I remember, like
telephone numbers, are of little value.
Like most people there are times when my memory is suddenly
out to lunch when I need it the most. In Wal-Mart I chance to meet an old
friend. He warmly calls my name. I smile and chat as though I remember him
well. I do remember him, but my memory will not cough up his name. Moments like
that are dreadful and embarrassing. Three days later I will recall my old
Some of us senior citizens can recall vivid details of
childhood experiences but cannot remember at noon what we ate for breakfast.
This bothers us because we know that loss of short-term memory is one of the
early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory seems to work better with negative experiences that
with positive. Someone can remember for 50 years the circumstances of being
hurt deeply by another person. Resentment or hatred can fuel the memory so that
some hurts are etched forever in our minds.
Faith often plays a defining role in our memory. Through
faith we may find the grace to let bitter memories go. When this happens
hurtful memories are erased and a healthy attitude replaces the resentment that
once dogged us. Abraham Lincoln was once
reminded that a certain man, whom he had recommended for a government position,
had been publicly critical of the president. Asked if he did not remember the
Clearly some people have better memories than
others. There is no obvious explanation why this is true. One principle of life
that may explain it is the familiar adage, “Use it or lose it.” Evidently this
is true of our memory. If we do not use it, we tend to lose it. So it seems
wise to keep the brain in gear – by working crossword puzzles daily or
memorizing Bible verses. Anything that is good exercise for the brain.
Caroline, my mother, had a remarkable memory. She could
rattle off the birthdays of 75 or more family members – even the year of each
person’s birth. My wife Dean can recall the color of a dress she wore when she
was six. These days she constantly recalls wise sayings her mother taught her
when she was growing up.
Since my sister Laurida died at age 56, some
14 years ago, I have recalled many experiences we shared growing up. Nobody
ever laughed like my sister. She laughed all over, and whenever she laughed,
she made the most of it. Sometimes when I hear a woman laughing as Laurida did,
I am plugged into joy. I recall how much she enjoyed life, and how our family still
enjoys remembering her special kind of laughter.
Laurida was a good cook, a devoted
homemaker. One of her favorite things was to bake cinnamon rolls. They were out
of this world. Everybody wanted a pan of Laurida’s rolls. Nobody could make
them like she did. Once her reputation was made, she frequently surprised
different family members of baking their own special batch of cinnamon rolls.
None of her rolls ever made it to the second day.
When Laurida was dying with cancer, and
she knew she did not have long to live, a wedding for one of her daughters was
arranged – at the foot of her bed in her home. I don’t think I will ever forget
that occasion. We all felt the wedding was performed on “holy ground.” It remains a sacred memory in my heart.
Surely her daughter and her husband will never forget their special wedding
even though it was not a “church wedding.”
One day an older couple walked into my
study and asked, “Do you remember us?” I drew a blank. I knew I had never seen
these two people before in my whole life. After enjoying my embarrassment for a
few minutes, the man told me their names and said, “You married us 38 years
Now armed with their names, and the
reminder that I had married them, I still could not remember what they looked
like almost 40 years before. I took their word for it, and enjoyed a chat with
them. Their names I did recall, but that was all.
Occasionally someone will walk up to me and
say, “Do you remember me?” Half the time I cannot remember their name. But I
have a standard reply to this question: “I could never forget a face like
yours.” Usually that produces a laugh, which gives me a few minutes to work
overtime trying to recall their name.
Frankly I refuse to be terribly embarrassed
when someone challenges me to remember his or her name. I simply say, “No, I
know I should remember your name, but I don’t. Please help me.” If someone is
ticked off by my memory lapse, I am sorry, but I choose not to punish myself
with another guilt trip. I have been on enough guilt trips.
We should all be wise to exercise our
minds daily and maintain a positive attitude toward our own capacity to
remember. Never say, “I have trouble remembering names.” Instead say, “Your
name is important to me; tell me your name again so I can write it down. I want
to remember it.”
One favor I must ask of the young. Be
kind to us old codgers. If you hear one of us telling you a story we have
already told you, just indulge us please. It is embarrassing to have someone
say, “You must be getting old; you keep telling the same old stories.”
If it is a good story, be thankful for
it. And remember, you may be old one day. Enjoy your memory while you can; it
may not last all your life! + + +