Memory, or my lack thereof

Chris said: Your memory is striking. Next “Ask Anything” I’m asking about that: do you remember the first time usually, or do you have to return to it repeatedly like most people, just you’re more diligent about than most?

Well, let me say that there are plenty of things I don’t remember. Some of it has to do with functionality. For instance, I know that Sonny Perdue is Secretary of Agriculture. When Obama was President, I knew Tom Vilsack was. But since he’s not anymore, he has slipped my mind. The only former Secretary I can remember is the infamous Earl Butz, under Nixon.

This isn’t a recent thing. When I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s, I usually made the bank deposits every weekday, and I’d see and briefly chat with one of the two tellers. One of them left, and seven months later, I saw her on the street. I could ask her about her cats or the problems she had with her apartment. Yet for the life of me, I could not remember her name.

I hate going to parties and meeting a bunch of new people. Despite all of those tricks I’ve read about overcoming this issue, it continues to dog me.

In junior high, I was supposed to memorize the Gettysburg Address; the whole thing is two minutes long. But I was unable to accomplish this. Likewise, I had a monologue in a high school production of The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco, and the Fire Chief had some incoherent rambling I just couldn’t master.

If people tell me things, I’m not as good as if I read them. I specifically have no capacity for line dancing because the mind can;t remember what the caller just said thrice before letting us go on our own.

On the other hand, things involving numbers I’m much better at. My daughter’s Social Security number, my library card number. If I get hit by a car, I won’t remember anything about the car except its license plate.

Music, too, is a tremendous help in recalling things. The Daughter is doing well in social studies because she knows most of the lyrics to the musical Hamilton. This is how she knows the first four Presidents.

But some things I just know. All of the Presidents, their political parties and the years they took office. I don’t know ALL the Secretaries of State, but a good chunk of them.

When I was on JEOPARDY! in 1998, and I had to put in order the statehood of three states, I could visualize a map in my fifth-grade class, with California already a state in 1850, when the other territories north and west of Texas were not. So Nebraska was next. Oklahoma, which I know from Rogers and Hammerstein, didn’t become a state until 1907, so it was the 46th, I know without looking it up.

Of course, like most people, I also remember things tied to a significant event. How beautiful the weather was in New York State on 11 September 2001. The look on Lee Harvey Oswald’s face when he as shot by Jack Ruby in November 1963, which I watched on live TV.

And I can remember things that astonish people, but only because some other fact triggered it. I believe I try to pay attention.

Finally, writing it down is useful. The blog is often doing just that, so, if for no other reason, I should keep it up for a while.

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