"Memory is the thing you forget with."
~ Alexander Chase
Spend some time with any senior citizen and inevitably a comment (or dissertation) is made regarding memory. Or more accurately, memory loss. I hear myself saying, often out loud, "now, why did I come in this room?"....or "where did I put....my keys, a book, my purse, that letter," etc., etc.
Spend time with a group of senior citizens and a deeper conversation occurs. "Are you experiencing the same challenges?" "Do you worry that this may signify something worse?" "I hate this!" Nervous laughter, reassurances usually follow.
I remember having a brain scan a couple years ago and reading the report..."a normal, aging brain." I didn't know whether to be relieved or offended. I did some research, however, just to be reassured that I was indeed normal. So, for the most part, I don't worry that my lapses in memory mean anything more catastrophic.
What is more intriguing to me these days is why I remember what I do remember and what triggers the memories. Just two days ago, while watching Turner Classic Movie's day of musicals (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly classics), there was a memorium for industry personalities that passed away this year. You know, the kind of tribute done yearly at the Oscars. Well, that one I've come to expect. This one came as a surprise. The list itself was also a surprise - Esther Williams, Dennis Farina, Jean Stapleton, Eileen Brennan, Michael Ansara, Karen Black, Eleanor Parker, Tom Clancy, Roger Ebert, Steve Forrest, Jack Klugman, Peter O'Toole - at least 20 names I recognized and another dozen faces I have come to know over the years in various character roles. The number stunned me.
And with it, a flood of memories - the TV series, the iconic roles (Edith Bunker, Hot Lips Hoolihan, Lawrence of Arabia, Cochise), the people I saw the movies or series with (some no longer a part of my life), the music, and the young woman, even the little girl I was when I first encountered them.
In the couple days that have followed, I have seen this clip again. Now, expecting it, some of the surprise, the sadness, and the nostalgia has passed. And what has surfaced next is the awareness that many of these names no longer mean much to people even a few years younger than I - or other fans of TCM,. Joan Fontaine, Audrey Totter, John Kerr, Dale Robertson. Oh yes, I know that every generation has to face this phenomenon, but it is still a bit disconcerting whenever it happens. Yes, it certainly has struck me before - who were the Beatles? What was polio? Did you really walk to school in the snow? You didn't have.....!!!!??
So what makes this experience more poignant? The sheer number of personalities? The realization that many of these names may mean little or nothing to many Americans? Or the recognition that they do mean a lot to me and that is another reminder of the passage of time, of my aging? Of my own mortality?