Tag Archives: memory

Imagine Having A Memory Like That at 88 !

We went to see the movie  All the Money in the World.  It tells the story of the kidnapping in 1973 of J.P. Getty’s grandson and namesake.  The senior Getty was at the time one of the richest men in the whole world but refused to pay his grandson’s ransom.   The movie certainly makes the point that all the money in the world can’t make you happy, or buy you love or respect.  It shows how in the end the accumulation of things leaves one cold and lonely.   

What I admired most about the film however was Christopher Plummer’s performance.  At age 88 he was called in after the entire movie had been shot to play the part of J.P. Getty because Kevin Spacey, the man who had filled the  starring role had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.  In just nine days all the scenes with Spacey had to be filmed again with Plummer in his place.  It wasn’t until I saw the film that I truly realized what a feat that was.   Plummer’s part was HUGE!  The number of lines he had to learn in short order is amazing.  At 88 he claimed it wasn’t that hard.  After years of memorizing scripts  he’s become quite adept at it.   Plummer memorized the longest sections first and then worked his way down to the shorter ones.

It made me wonder if I shouldn’t take up drama in my old age if it helps you retain such a remarkable memory.  I think many octogenarians  would give an awful lot of money, though perhaps not all the money in the world,  for a memory like that!

Other posts……

The Rememberer

The Constructed Mennonite

He Just Disappeared

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Filed under Movies

Is Memory Selective?

 “Do you remember every flower arrangement you’ve ever  made?”  I was in a floral shop ordering a centerpiece and the owner asked me if I had seen any of her work before. I mentioned a unique floral arrangement that had been a gift from a friend four years prior. I began to describe it and she nodded in recognition. “Of course”, she said. “ I know exactly the arrangement you mean.  I wasn’t in the store the day it was sold. I’ve always wondered who had it.” I was amazed she remembered something she had worked on so long ago so I asked if she could recall every floral arrangement she had every made. “Yes I can”, she said. “Once I’ve made them I don’t forget them.”

I was thinking about her response when I read about a successful New York chef named Danny Meyer. One of Danny’s fellow chefs said in an interview, “Danny can remember every meal he’s every made.”

 I’m often amazed when my husband Dave will meet old baseball team mates and they will start talking about a game they played many years ago.  They know who was on base and who was up to bat at crucial junctures in the game. Sometimes they even describe a slide into third base or a great catch in centre field. My husband also has that kind of memory for certain golf rounds he has played or basketball games he has participated in.

 I sometimes worry I am losing my memory. Often simple facts and well known names simply disappear from my brain at the most embarrassing moments. I can however, remember nearly every single thing I’ve  written for publication. The main ideas of hundreds of articles are stuck  in my mind. A topic may come up in conversation and I’ll think, “I’ve written an article about that.” Sure enough when I check my files, I’ll find a piece sometimes written twenty or even thirty years prior. I haven’t forgotten it.

They say memory is selective.  Perhaps when we are passionate about something whether its writing or sports or cooking or flowers we select memories associated with those passions to collect and hold. 

Other posts ………

At Sixes and Sevens

Life is Messy

It’s a Personal Decision

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Filed under Reflections

A Rememberer

I’ve just read Anne Tyler’s latest book Noah’s Compass. The main character Liam Pennywell is the victim of a home burglary during which he receives a nasty hit on the head. He wakes up in the hospital and has no memory whatsoever of the incident. Eventually he is well enough to go home, but his mind is still a blank about the day of his injury.

Desperate to recall what has happened to him he pays a visit to a doctor acquaintance and in the waiting room he sees an elderly man obviously suffering from dementia who has a young female companion with him.  By carefully observing them Liam realizes the woman is serving as the man’s rememberer.  The older gentleman is the head of a large corporation and by having an assistant who supplies pertinent information about his business, family and friends to him when necessary, he is able to continue running his company and maintain an active social life. 

Liam wishes he too could have a rememberer, a person who acts as a kind of ‘external hard drive’ storing the things he forgets and reminding him about them at appropriate times. The New York Times review of the book featured an illustration showing Liam trying to desperately crawl up to his brain where he believes his memory of the robbery is stored.  He wants a rememberer to help him with that climb.

In an Atlantic Monthly illustration for Noah’s Compass, Liam is depicted as a solitary man. After his accident he is forced to rely on family to help him and then a series of events force some of them to rely on him, and during this process he starts to remember things about his life that aren’t always that comfortable. His ex-wife, sister, daughters and grandson become his rememberers and he begins to recall grief, guilt and disappointments from the past that trouble and interfere with his insular existence. 

I am not sure if having a rememberer would be such a good thing. There may be things in our past it is best we forget if we wish to move on with our lives.  Having a rememberer might also be tricky because the way any two people remember an event or person can be so different. My memory can be very selective and my children tell me I tend to embellish memories to make them more dramatic or to suit a topic I am writing about.

A cousin told me not long ago that I have a tendency to dwell on positive memories or see negative memories in a good light. While he encouraged me to keep doing that, his tone implied that perhaps I was slightly naive and unrealistic for taking that approach.

When my brother Ken and my sister Kaaren and I were writing a toast to the groom for my youngest brother Mark’s wedding many years ago, I was struck by how each of the three of us had very different memories of our brother that had been important to us, and how even our recall of events we had all experienced with him could be quite different.

I looked up the word ‘rememberer’ and it is defined as someone who knows individual words or phrases, and sometimes entire texts of a dying or dead language  but doesn’t really understand what they mean in context and cannot use the language productively. Having another person be a rememberer for you might be much the same. They could remind you of the facts but not having had the actual experiences as you have, or interacted with the real people from your past in the way you have, would those facts present a meaningful memory? 

I’m not sure if I’d like to have a rememberer. I think it would be too embarrassing, troubling and sad to remember everything about my past  but when I meet a student I taught twenty years ago and can’t recall their name or when I’m trying to remember the title of a book I’ve read or even all the different passwords I have for different online sites it might come in pretty handy to have a rememberer. 

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