I had a good idea for a column this morning, but I didn’t write it down and then I forgot it. Maybe it’s the cold or the wind. I can’t ever remember not being a great rememberer.

People always called on me to remember birthdays and obscure facts like who ran against Roosevelt in 1932. Herbert Hoover, inventor of the Hoover vacuum cleaner. I made that up.

I’ve always been good at remembering things like Clark Gable’s false teeth. His first wife, Josephine Dillon, had his teeth pulled and replaced, so he could become a movie star. He divorced her shortly after.

I knew Cary Grant’s real name, and what all of the above died of. Macabre, yes, but a big hit at parties and trivia contests.

This, I think, Google calls “long-term memory.” I can, for instance, recall long chunks of conversations between family folks in arguments that took place on Christmas Eve when I was five, possibly because most of it was shouted.

It was so long ago, no one else remembers what anyone said. I wrote to an aging aunt once and reminded her of something she said at a funeral. She said she not only did not remember it, she didn’t remember me. She also had forgotten that she hated me, because as a child I broke her beloved snow globe.

I remember my Uncle Peter, a great fisherman and drinker who was gassed in the first world war and hated anyone in uniform, coming to Christmas dinner and calling my father’s Navy uniform, “a dog catcher’s suit.”

I can remember Sister Rosanna’s long lectures on what the Twelve Apostles ate and drank and how they dressed. I can remember Junior Reed asking her if the apostles wore underwear, and how she then quickly changed the subject to Stan Musial and the Cardinals. Sister was a baseball fan and remembered game statistics like a sports writer.

That’s long-term memory, and with me it’s practically faultless. I annoy some people who refuse to sit any longer through a Turner Classic film with me, for my annoying habit of calling out the names of obscure bit players I loved as a child: “There’s Franklin Pangborn,” I’d shout. “Oh my God, it’s Charlie Winninger.”

It’s the short-term stuff that fails me, and they say that comes with age. Isn’t it one of the great conundrums that when we’re young and have great memories, we have almost nothing important to remember except taking out the trash and the name of the girl who sat behind us in the sixth grade?

But then we get older, much older, and we have all of these life-saving things to remember: doctors’ phone numbers, appointments with dentists and dog doctor appointments.

We have to remember what we had for breakfast that gave us nausea or diarrhea in case the doctor asks, or what it was we walked in at the camp that gave us blisters.

It’s most annoying when she, who seems to remember the most inconsequential incidents, constantly faults me.

“You remember, of course you do, the woman whose son you thought was an idiot even if he did get into Harvard? You were talking to her at that party — don’t you remember? You’re just pretending not to remember so you don’t have to listen to me.”’

Sometimes I just say I do remember, even when I don’t, but she’s gotten wise to that ruse, so now she doubles down.

“Then if you remember, what was she wearing?”

That’s when I pretend to fall asleep. OMG. I just remembered what it was I was going to write about today. I better write it down … where did I put that pen?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.
 

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