ETCETERA / Home thoughts

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
I SEEM to be losing my memory (if not my mind). I remember increasingly little these days: which bills to pay, what shopping to buy, what I'm doing with my life. On a bad morning I find it hard to recall which name belongs to what child; on really bad mornings, it's a struggle to remember my own name.

This all started after the baby was born in April. For the first few weeks after his birth, I was regularly stopped in the street by people who seemed to know all about me and the children . . . and I had no idea who they were. Their faces were entirely unfamiliar, but I'd make an effort to smile and nod and talk to them like a normal human being, instead of gaping blankly like a zombie.

Gradually, the fog cleared, and I realised that these people were not complete strangers with an uncanny knowledge of my family: I'd actually met them all in the local park. But just as I'd memorised their names and faces, after enormous effort, I started forgetting a great deal of other things.

Things like not putting the video on when my husband rang to ask me to record a football match which was starting that very second. I put the phone down, wandered into the sitting room, and forgot what I was supposed to be doing there - so I went back into the kitchen, ate some chocolate (I never forget about chocolate) and then retired to bed.

More worrying was my complete failure to remember that my sister had asked me to be a witness at her wedding. The day before the ceremony, I had started feeling slightly peeved that I didn't have some minor role to play (Matron of Honour, maybe?). On the morning itself, when she reminded me, I came out in a cold sweat (if I'd forgotten about being a witness, how would I remember to bring the rings?). I'm not sure if there is a physiological reason for this memory loss: it could be hormonal, I suppose, or perhaps it's the effect of months of sleep deprivation. There is also the horrible possibility that I am simply getting old. In fact, I'm not unlike those 92-year-old ladies who can remember everything about their childhood, and nothing about what happened yesterday. The big difference is that although I remember almost nothing about yesterday, my long-term memory is not much better. For example, those endless years of education seem to have disappeared into the mists of time: hours of maths lessons, physics, chemistry, biology, history. Gone, gone, all gone.

I do, however, have a startling ability to remember trivia: the entire lyrics to 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboys' by Elton John (memorised 17 years ago); the exact design of my brown wedge shoes with a four and a half inch platform, bought in the autumn of 1976 after protracted negotiations with my mother. ('Well, if you ruin your feet, don't blame me . . .')

I know what a psychotherapist would say. He'd say, 'Your memory loss is a sign that you are resisting living in the present. You must be depressed.' But I think he would be wrong. Apart from anything else, if I did happen to be depressed yesterday, I'd have forgotten all about it by today.