Archive for the ‘Memory’ Category

Service of “Say What?”

Monday, February 12th, 2024

I have a friend who seems to remember every year, month and day of every event in her life. Not me. If asked by a doctor—or now an online form— “When did such and such happen?” I have no clue. It happened. It’s behind me. Onwards.

Same with sad dates like the death of my parents and husband. I know the months and my parents made it easy on the years otherwise who remembers?

I didn’t inherit my uncle and mom’s memories. My mother’s brother remembered the punchlines of hundreds if not thousands of jokes. My mother remembered poems she’d memorized in middle school and knew them better than I did when, as she made dinner, I’d practice reciting an 8th grade assignment.

I marvel at the memories of Jeopardy contestants. Some of my friends also have Google-like memories recounting book, movie and play titles, authors and actor’s names. My husband was a living fill in the blank. He remembered the contents of countless history and biography anthologies he’d read sometimes decades before, was abreast of current events, opera, and art–especially before the mid 20th Century–football and golf and knew world geography like the back of his hand.

Speaking of which I opened an envelope on Saturday thinking it would be a Valentine but instead it was a mass card from St. Patrick’s Cathedral dated February 25, which would have been my husband’s 90th birthday. I knew the date but hadn’t focused on this round number and that he’s been gone for five years. My friends remembered.

Because of my many lifelong failings in this regard I was appalled that President Biden was called out in the special counsel report for not remembering the years he was Vice President or the date of his son’s death. Ask “What year did you move from North Dakota to Turkey?” or “What year did you buy the house?” and in a tense situation with 1,000 more important things going on [as the President has] many might freeze at the drilling–even, I suspect, the most vehement finger-waggers. And by the way: What relevancy do those dates have regarding boxes of White House documents found in a garage?

Does anyone recall how President Reagan answered almost every policy question? He tossed the ball to someone on his staff. I empathized with Reagan, especially coming after Jimmy Carter who had a most remarkable grasp of all issues foreign and domestic.

Do I exclaim “Aha!” when a young client forgets to do something, or if I need to remind a much younger friend to get back to me about a pending date? Nope. Do you?

Are you one of the lucky ones who is a trivia star?

Service of Where the Dickens Did I Put That?

Thursday, October 5th, 2023

Waiting far too long for the bus last Sunday I struck up a conversation with another frustrated passenger. Not sure why the subject came up but he mentioned that he had misplaced his kitchen scissors and couldn’t find them for the life of him. He thought a houseguest might have used and misplaced them but wasn’t sure.

Misery loves company. I was gratified to know that a person at least 20 years my junior has the same annoying time-wasting dilemma I often have. My husband seemed allergic to putting things back where they were supposed to be so it became a game to find the tape or stapler that he’d squirreled away in creative places instead of putting them in their spot.

An a.m. drivetime radio host in his 50s was sick at home with Covid for five days and couldn’t find his house keys. He asked readers to give him ideas of where to look for it. Some suggested he pray to Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost articles. It took four days for him to find them. Guess where they were? At the bottom of his wife’s handbag.

I have nobody but me to blame when my phone, reading and sunglasses or a gift card go missing. I keep tape and scissors in a few places so I always have backup, but they always seem to be where I’ve stored them. Do I need two of everything?

Sometimes I riffle through my file cabinet several times before finding the folder I need. It’s been there all the time.

I’m a list maker—for to do’s, groceries, blog ideas and project priorities. Where do I misplace a crucial list? Don’t ask. I can and do.

Do you tend to misplace some things more than others? When you find the item is it usually in the same place? Do you have failsafe tricks to keep search time to a minimum?

Service of It’s All in the Tone and Context

Monday, September 4th, 2023

A Friend, in his sixth decade, was reminiscing about how his father hit the ceiling when he said “so.” He inspired this post.

At first I thought “what’s so bad about ‘so?’” He explained that if he said “so?” after his father reprimanded him, his dad’s expression shouted, “now you’re really in for it.” I remember getting in trouble with my father if he thought I’d been disrespectful to my mother. It didn’t happen often but he’d misinterpret my tone if not my words. He learned English in his mid-thirties which may account for some of the miscommunication.

On to more examples. When my plumber or dentist says, “no problem,” I sigh with relief. However, as I’ve often complained, if someone is doing their job and to my “thank you” they say, “no problem,” I grit my teeth.

If you use sarcasm around people who take everything literally, you’re in for a pile of misunderstanding. “That’s just great,” you might exclaim after you’ve spilled cranberry juice on your white couch. The literal listener might inquire “what is ‘great’ about ruining your upholstery?” They might also wonder about your reaction “such fun,” after you’ve undergone a two-hour root canal procedure.

Misinterpreting sarcasm is different from hiding behind “I was just joking” when someone has said something mean and you tell them that they’ve hurt you.

Can you share examples of words that mean different things depending on circumstance and tone of voice? What about people who take sarcasm literally or say they’re joking when they’ve insulted you?

Service of “I Wonder What Happened to…..”

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

I’ve rarely played this mind game. A recent conversation reminded me of a baby I once knew and I wondered what had become of him.

I babysat for him for a month in Boston the summer after my sophomore year. His parents lived in a beautiful home. I never saw his mother, a natural beauty, touch him. I’d arrive at my scheduled time–10:00 a.m.–and he’d be in his playpen wearing diapers from the night before. You can imagine the raw condition of his skin. Milk that had dribbled from his cup had begun to sour in the heat. She’d tell me to warm and feed him the same food for lunch day after day, usually leftover from a dinner party. He’d eat it, unless she came into the kitchen where his highchair was, and then he’d stop eating. She’d complain that he wouldn’t eat. He was an intelligent child but at two didn’t utter a word.

She’d reprimand me if I changed his damp clothes after his afternoon nap, before going to the park again. She didn’t like dealing with all that laundry even though I folded it while he slept. I’d bathe him before I left for the day unless his father came home early as he liked to give him his bath. The little one would run, joyfully, into his father’s arms when he opened the door.

She asked me to join them for a month where they were going to vacation. I used the excuse that I couldn’t leave the city. On my last day she told me she was pregnant.

I don’t remember their names or I’d look for him on Google.

Do you ever wonder what happened to someone?

 
Image by rafael1979 from Pixabay

Service of Remembering a Person’s Name

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Fred

“Remember people’s names,” said my friend Erica Martell recently, “they’ll treat you better.” She’d just returned from her Honda dealer where she’d greeted the receptionist by name. She’d also remembered that the woman had been gone for a while, further personalizing her conversation. Her car was first serviced.

I wonder if Fred, [photo above], the doorman at my building, gets the biggest and most holiday tips. As I’ve written before, he knows the names of most tenants, their kids and dogs as well as their apartment numbers. There are 510 apartments and most house more than one person. It’s lovely returning home to hear “Hello Jeanne-Marie!” I’ve lived in doorman buildings where a hello barely warrants a grunt in return. [I moved.]

I envy people with remarkable name memory–I know a few. I have always been name lazy and deficient. A basic tip at how-to-network events is how to help others remember your name. Take Byington. I might say “My name is Jeanne Byington, and although the By in Byington is not spelled B U Y, it’s a good name for me because I love to shop.”  But who speaks like that? I never tried it. And people tend to remember my name anyway.

I think we’re born with such talents, like learning languages, being musical, handy or athletic. My husband remembered numbers. He could tell you the cost to the penny of a project that happened years before. He also remembered dates and details from the biographies and history books he read by the armloads full and could identify an opera after the first few notes [even though he was tone deaf].

Do you remember a waiter’s name, if he announces it, if he isn’t wearing an ID? Do you call him/her by name? When you enter a restaurant, dry cleaner or other business and staff remembers your name does it make a difference to you? Do you think you get better service when you call an employee by name?



Image by motointermedia from Pixabay

Service of Mourning: Remember

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

President Biden led the mourners honoring the 400,000 who have died of Covid-19. On the eve of the inauguration he stood by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., silhouetted by 400 lights, and said: “To heal we must remember.” The next day the President prayed at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery. Again he led the nation in remembering.

Yesterday in a White House statement, he said: “Today, we join together with people from nations around the world to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day by remembering the 6 million Jews, as well as the Roma and Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and many others, who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Shoah. ….”

“Death is natural,” my husband would say as he hugged me through my grief when parents, relatives and friends died. When he died I remembered his healing hugs.

Homer’s approach, while sensible and accurate, doesn’t mitigate the feelings of loss that loved ones experience. It must be worse when death doesn’t seem natural: Those left behind when the lives of Covid-19 patients have been cut short–whether children or the elderly. Without the virus thousands would have celebrated many other birthdays and holidays. Holocaust survivors and loved ones of victims of violence must feel the same.

It’s true that the departed live on in your heart and mind. Keepsakes help. I put my hands on my father’s and husband’s leather gloves that are on a table for easy access. The main character, Assane Diop, played by Omar Sy in the Netflix series “Lupin,” holds dear his dead father’s gloves as well.

When others remember one of my loved ones it’s momentous. It might make me teary but then so much does–it shouldn’t discourage them from sharing their memories. In what ways do you remember?  Or is it too painful?

Service of Memories

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

From a frenetic to a busy to a quiet life made more so by the pandemic I find memories pop into my head these last months. I usually focus on looking ahead but between the pandemic, the economy and anticipation over the November election it’s increasingly difficult.

I have always been drawn to cherry motifs. Happy memories associated with this luscious summer fruit have inspired my attraction. [The little bowl, photo right, bought at a craft show years ago is an example.]

As I ate some cherries, freshly picked yesterday in upstate New York, I remembered a childhood dinner game. We’d help ourselves to as many cherries as we could eat for dessert and when finished, we’d hide our piles of pits under our hands and give the others at the table a quick glimpse. The winner guessed the number of pits on the other diner’s plates.

Next cherry memory took me to a boutique hotel with restaurant near Puy, France that boasted one of the few up and coming female chef-owners at the time. Her husband was a magnificent host. Some 20 years ago while we were relaxing by the pool after a day of touring we saw her strolling on the property. As she walked she pulled a few cherries from her trees and popped them in her mouth. I remember this scene–and one of two American couples who shared a car who had a rip-roaring fight in front of us–but not what we ordered for dinner. Dessert was crème anglaise with meringue–floating island.

With all the sheltering at home I wonder if families are again eating dinner together and perhaps playing similar games as we did in the day. Have you been distracting yourself with memories to avoid thoughts of the immediate future? What triggers have sparked your memories?

Service of Aging Gracefully

Monday, March 12th, 2018

My Aunt Dickie had a needlepoint pillow which read: “Old age is not for sissies.” How right was her pillow, though you’d never know it on the surface of things in some cases.

At the Oscars Eva Marie Saint took my breath away as did Rita Moreno and Jane Fonda. They are 93, 86 and 80 years old respectively but you could have fooled me. Ask Google about Fonda and among her list of accomplishments is “fitness guru.” I’ll say! Moreno wore a 56 year old dress—the one she had on when she received the Oscar for her role in “West Side Story” and she looked magnificent. As for Ms. Saint, she was elegant and sounded fabulous and closer to sixty than 100.

Hearing writer-historians such as David McCollough, 84, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, 75, rattle off dates and events dotted with fascinating facts and anecdotes without peering at a note is a thrill. Few can remember half as much and in such vivid detail at any age.

Here’s another example closer to home. To counter the ravages of Parkinson’s my husband, with a lifelong almost terminal allergy to any and all things exercise, has completed a grueling four weeks of practically daily physical therapy with stretches and sit/standing homework on top of it. Many days he can hardly get out of bed yet no matter how weak and queasy he feels off he goes to Sutton Place Physical Therapy returning exhausted and often cheerful. He’s cancelled only once—on one of the snowstorm days. He says that his head has felt clearer than it has in years making it easier for him to do tax prep, write—already gifted he works on improving—and preparing dinners restaurant chefs would admire.

Some Medicare-eligible citizens are blessed with genes that help keep them feeling and appearing youthful and are relatively disease-free; others have great facelift and fitness support teams and still others have the belly to fight. Will increasing numbers of high profile older folks who hit life out of the park positively impact prejudice against workers 45+ especially in some industries as film–for women in particular–advertising and PR to name a few? Do you know of any remarkable seniors you’d like to call out?

 

Homer Byington

Service of Remembering

Monday, August 14th, 2017

I wonder if other people do what I do to remember people who have died.

If I hear a date in the news, it gets me thinking of the past. An example: I read articles and Facebook postings about the full solar eclipse expected in the Continental US on August 21. Each report reminds readers that the last one was in 1979. I immediately think: “What close family members, now dead, were alive 38 years ago and where were they? Did they see it?” It is somehow comforting. [This morning I heard it was 99 years ago. That reference would not have triggered the same reaction!]

I have a pair of my father’s well worn leather gloves on a living room shelf [photo above]. As I pass by I often put my hand on the top glove. It’s reassuring. I noticed that every time my nephew sees his grandfather’s gloves he slips one on.

I sent a thank you card to a friend who told me she put it in a favorite cookbook. I was honored. I mentioned that in a few of my latest moves I’ve had to close my eyes and toss so many things but I’ve kept some greeting cards in the handwriting of loved ones and on occasion, a card will fall out of a book I’ve not read in a long time. It makes me sad in a way but I am happy to have a memento with precious handwriting on it. She said that her cookbooks have many such cards.

In my wallet I carry mass cards of deceased friends and relatives—and I wonder why my handbag is so darned heavy! I come across the cards [photo left] more often than if I’d tuck them away. Years ago I’d put them in a missal that went to church weekly.

There are favorite coffee mugs that people have given me that literally warm me and all over my home gifts are lovely reminders.

How do you remember loved ones? Will anything take the place of printed pieces that are easy to save and don’t take up much room?

 

 

Service of Reunions

Monday, May 1st, 2017

I’m not a big fan of school or college reunions although I loved my time at the institutions.

You can count on one hand the number I’ve attended. I know the amount of work and time involved with determining the topics, gathering the right speakers, planning the dinners and satellite events and marketing them all to gather a crowd.

I attended select parts of a recent one.

I can understand why Truman Capote wrote “Answered Prayers,” the tell-all book that destroyed his relationship with best friends such as Babe Paley and Gloria Vanderbilt. He was angry. So was I. 

However apart from the obvious differences between us, such as audience size and prominence, the first draft of this post, [torn up now], and Truman’s book differ in that mine wasn’t about others’ secrets; it covered snarky or off-the-wall comments of former classmates. And it didn’t give sufficient credit to the generosity of the couple who throw elegant dinner parties for class members and their partners to celebrate these occasions or the speakers at the discussion I attended.

Andrea Thompson, in an article on livescience.com, wrote “Bad Memories Stick Better Than Good.” She quoted Elizabeth Kensinger, Boston College, who reviewed research on emotional memories. “‘It really does matter whether [an event is] positive or negative in that most of the time, if not all of the time, negative events tend to be remembered in a more accurate fashion than positive events,’ Kensinger said.”

What inspires people to say thoughtless, nasty things at events such as reunions? Do you attend them? Do you remember the bad parts more than the good or is it all good?

 

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