Forgetting to Remember

This last week, I was on reading break. The very last reading week I will get in my life. So, I shelved all things medical and had a good time. In particular, I took a four-day ski trip to Jasper with my Fiancé Cory. Sure, two of those four days were largely spent driving from Edmonton, but it still was far more relaxing than my Christmas break had been.

The two days of skiing went magnificently: not a lot of people on the mountain on a Thursday, and the Friday was just a little bit colder, and kept some people off. Lots of powder, constantly refreshed from the sky. Glory.

Food was great. Access to stupid TV, which fascinated us while also reminding us why we don’t own a TV, was entertaining. The massage we went for on the last night was possibly the best idea I’ve ever had.

Yesterday morning, as we were packing up our stuff, I suddenly realized that not only had we not taken any pictures on this trip, but we had forgot a camera altogether. So I briefly stepped out onto the balcony and snapped a few pictures with the smartphone.

Mountains and a parking lot! How romantic.

Forgetting to take pictures is fairly typical of us. We often neglect to bring a camera to events, or even to places we visit. Now that I am in my Neurology Block, I think it’s the better way to be.

The purpose behind a vacation photo is to capture an event for later showing and remembering, and with the advent of digital photos, which I am old enough to remember, we don’t particularly think about how many photos we take, or if we will even remember every scene we glance at through the viewfinder. I am against the idea of cataloguing an entire trip. Specifically, I’m against taking photos as insurance against forgetting.

I assure you, you can forget anything. Everything.

The onset of what we used to call senility can wipe out memory. As can trauma. Or cancer, depending on where it is. Or a stroke. Our memory is literally as fragile as our brain, and though prompts can help to jog a memory that is “misplaced,” I don’t think they can replace a memory that isn’t present anymore.

When I used to work in long term care, I often wondered if the residents on the dementia wards really remembered the people in the photographs. What would it be like, I thought, to look across a room at a photograph of some people, or a place, and not know if you knew those people or had been at that place. It might be disconcerting if you did not recognize the photograph, because then you might wonder why you were alone in a room that didn’t seem to be your own. Confusion.

At present, we cannot stop memory from fading. Which really does bring us good news, because we can stop worrying in our present about trying to remember everything in the future. After all, it really is nicer to just drink in life as it happens.

I had a great holiday, and part of the reason my holiday was great was that I didn’t let myself think beyond the next couple of hours. Less about memento, more about moment. Maybe I’ll forget this time in the future, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter. I can’t do much about it.

I can just get on with having a good time.


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