Thursday, February 28, 2013

remembering Vicksburg

As once I might not have been, nowadays I am sympathetic to those who forget and feel some small, panicked shock in the recognition. In day-to-day affairs, it's hard to know what is NOT memory and similarly hard to know who I might be without those memories.

Waking up in the morning, I think everyone takes a few moments to remember who they are ... to don the thoughts and emotions that will recreate a plausible "me" that connects and provides an imagined cohesion to the days and weeks and years that have gone before and the ones yet to be. But then there is the question of what things are like before memory....

What brought this to mind was Vicksburg. Yesterday, I could not remember what state Vicksburg lived in. I knew that I had once known with a granite-like certainty ... and that there had been a Civil War battle there ... but what followed the comma on a letter's address -- "Vicksburg, _____" -- did not rise up with the instantaneous ease I knew it had once had.

I knew Vicksburg was in the south and so I tried various southern states on for size and flavor and reassurance ... Vicksburg, Tennessee; Vicksburg, Virginia; Vicksburg, South Carolina. None of them provided the assurance I knew I had once felt and I had to admit ... I really didn't know. It was gone like a fleck of gold dust in a river bed ... caught in some eddy and floating away downstream. It was a minute piece of who I was -- "I know that" -- and now suddenly I didn't know that. It was no big deal and yet it sent a small, electric bolt of panic through me. If I could not remember Vicksburg, who knew what might be on the horizon ... and who would I be without various well-stitched memories?

As if to compensate or bring laughter to the emptied scene, my mind came up with "spendorphins" this morning. Spendorphins were the analgesics that allowed people to feel better, more assured and more confident by spending a lot. Pretty kool. Not "Vicksburg," of course, but still ... pretty kool.

When a baby exits the womb, I have heard, there is only one thing it knows how to do ... suck. Shall I write that off with a facile use of the word "instinct" or shall I venture into la-la land and ask what memory instills the capacity? I don't know.

There was a show on television once (can't find it on Google) about a grown man who lived in England with a minder (his wife perhaps) and forgot damned near everything, almost instantaneously. When the minder returned from the store with a loaf of bread, the man would be delighted to see her and would greet her with a wonderful affection ... but he didn't know who she was. The show did not get into the fact that this man could speak and walk and see and hence had some capacity to remember ... the show focused on what he forgot almost instantaneously ... stuff like "Vicksburg" perhaps. He seemed to be a happy, gregarious and warm-hearted person ... not someone stymied or frightened by the fact that who he was had been somehow diminished ... if it was.

Vicksburg, Mississippi ... I had to look it up. But looking it up did not allay the sense that some small corner of the rafters had shaken. "Vicksburg, Mississippi" had been a minute piece of who I "was" and who I was expected to be. Friends and enemies expected ... but more important, so did I.

Waking up in the morning, there is the re-donning of remembered clothes. Male, female, sexy, plain, depressed, friendly, old, young, sick, healthy, Democrat, fascist, tall, short, smart, dumb, father, mother, American, Saudi Arabian, car owner, professional ... an endless list resurrected in a nanosecond before going about a continued and continuing life. The puzzle pieces come back together and recreate the picture... the remembered picture. Yup, here I am, alive and kicking.

But then "Vicksburg" rebelled. It refused to be included in its full format. The known dropped off some cliff into the unknown. What was life like before or without memory. Life didn't seem to be any the worse for wear, but 'my' life certainly did. My life knew how to suck ... but was that enough, was that the alpha and omega? Was this life somehow like a schoolroom blackboard that accepts without complaint the jottings of an astrophysicist or, after some careful and natural erasure, the declensions of a bit of Latin, or a witty graffito?

The affable man in England was portrayed as a tabula rasa ... but a clean slate was not entirely accurate. He forgot a lot, but he clearly remembered as well... to speak, to hug, to smile. But the other stuff he might conceivably have held dear ... well, some dear-holding function appeared to have been put on hold or perhaps had simply relaxed into a more natural and less-contrived state.

What lies "before memory?"

I can hear my Buddhist chums gearing up for some explication or lovely discussion ... who knows, maybe we can make a religion out of it or a spiritual brass ring or ... another piece of the puzzle that reasserts and recombines in the early morning light. Meaning is meaningful, after all... nod, nod, wink, wink.  Vicksburg matters.

I don't know enough about all this to call it good or bad, desirable or undesirable. To know would be to remember and with "Vicksburg" bouncing down the stream bed,  I am clearly out of my depth.

Sayonara Vicksburg. Sayornara Adam. Or, perhaps more accurately, au revoir.

It's time for a shot of spendorphins ... to get to the supermarket and pick up meatloaf fixings. I seem to remember that I like good meatloaf.


  1. " Spendorphins " lol...excellent.

  2. You forget to add those ones that are gladly forgotten...oops there you again!