Sunday, January 25, 2015

What gives with memories?

This morning at church we spoke briefly to the couple in front of us during the meet and greet. A few minutes later my better half turned and whispered in my ear "$5 says they were in Urbana" After service we discovered that we'd known them from 30 years before. Even with names and reminders I drew a complete blank, and still do. But she remembered them, their names, and the children they had at the time.

I don't do so well.

During my late brother-in-law's last illness, friends took a full size picture of him ("flat Chris") and photographed it in places he'd been or wanted to go and sent them to him. Some were posted on Facebook and I saw them too, in places I also used to visit. Even the places I'd been to many times I barely recognized.

The building with the physics and math offices at SIU-- still there, still the same--I didn't recognize the facade at all. Visual memories seem to go in a dust blender in my mind, and all that's left are fragments of a view here or there associated with some dramatic incident.

I would sometimes see a student walking down the street and think "That looks like X from my high school." When I last looked at a high school yearbook I didn't recognize half the faces anymore, even though I remember interactions with them, or the look in her eye, and sometimes even the conversation.

I must file all that sort of thing in medium term memory, and reuse the space when its been idle too long. Or something.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Very odd stuff, memory. We reassemble it every time, so your most common memories of the past are certain to have been influenced by your narrative of what they should have been. Yet, they are at least something. I have incidents over the last few years, even dramatic things one would think were unforgettable, that I have to be hand-carried to by others who were there and amazed I don't recall.

I recall characteristic movement of people, and at reunions can see out of the corner of my eye and think "That's Adair Tilson." I am very good at faces and names from that era generally. But flat-on, 2D faces just freeze up for me. They look like nothing, or no one. At the last reunion, this included a GF I had been somewhat intimate with, which borders on being insulting to her. Fortunately, she turned slightly and a host of memories flooded in.

It all becomes very interesting in PTSD research, when old ER records are used to give some hint of who may or may not have been actually abused. The data support neither extreme of memory claims. Some adults have clearly forgotten real abuse, others have clearly made things up.

BTW, Retriever sent this along.

james said...

Thanks for the link. It is good to know I'm not alone in recollection gaps.