My son David, when he was 12, had a horrendous stroke that stole his memory and, for a time, his mind. He was in a coma struggling for life and when he “came to” I asked him, “What number is Pavel Bure” (“The Russian Rocket” and the greatest Vancouver Canuck of all time and David’s then idol). David couldn’t speak, his hands were tied to his bed frame, a frozen plastic soother was duct-taped into his mouth, but he knew the number “10.” His hand slowly opened twice. Five fingers, two times. That I won’t forget.
David was there. His memory still worked. His affection was intact. His mind functioned. He knew Pavel Bure’s number.
This is called “emotional memory.” David remembers what emotionally matters to him. He remembers hockey statistics, Bible verses, his friends’ birthdays, his family’s emotions, his Dad’s love for shoulder massages when he is stressed. He doesn’t remember Math 12 or the fundamentalism of his Sunday School days. He remembers emotionally — the things that matter.
And so do you.
I don’t remember friends’ phone numbers now that smart phones have made me dumb. I don’t remember my work address because it is on the footer of my emails. But I do remember Carole’s voice on a phone call when she is just checking in – I remember it with the fragrance, beauty and lilt of our dating years. I remember my teenage daughter coming home late at night on dates with Brent (now her husband and the dad of their two boys) and how we talked about her joy and what most mattered to her. And when David massages my shoulders, I remember when we almost lost him and how I am touched by him.
Schools emphasize “cognitive memory” and this is what we, teachers and professors, often assess. But we don’t normally enter into what our students love and what motivates them to hope and dream. We don’t understand affection, and faith and what is essentially moral, but we evaluate on data accuracy, cognitive carefulness and redundant repetition.
It seems to me that if there is a ribbon in our memory from past to present and present to past (see the last post) it is an emotional ribbon. And it is coloured in Robin Hood green and pumpkin orange and priestly purple and slimming black and smells like fresh baked sourdough with plumping butter poured all over. With a glass of cab sav. Now that I can remember.
Emotional memory tastes as great as it looks and feels even better. Immeasurable really.