Sunday, August 08, 2004

Memory is a very funny thing. Sometimes not funny at all.

My Oma is 88 years old, soon to be 89, two days after my own birthday (I am August 30th, she September 1st). Since we moved Oma & Opa out to California from New York last January a significant and overwhelming change has occurred to her. She has lost all memory of significant family connections with the exception of her eldest son Joaf(Joe), my uncle, and her husband, my Opa. Gone are my father, me, my siblings and the ways in which we are all connected. We have simply become friends who she met out here in California despite some disturbing "coincidences" in her mind. She often wonders how we could possibly know certain details even though we have only "known" her less than a year. It is a painful situation. Actually, we've all handled it very well because before we moved them, she was suicidal. This life here has been an improvement. My father claims that he never really felt he had a mother, because she was so emotionally clenched up when he was a kid, and because he moved away from them when he was still a his sadness is more remote.

Last night, we visited them again. She knows who I am "My Jordie" she calls me. But she has forgotten all the summers I spent with them on Shelter Island, all the crafts we did together. She's forgotten, in essence, all the things that make our relationship to one another meaningful. It finally hit me last night that I had lost her, or she had lost me, and it was more painful than I expected. I've been writing a lot about this. One piece was published in the St. Petersburg Times and expresses the sentiment more in terms of my relationship to my father. But it's all hitting me lately. How much is and can be lost. How our very identity is shaped by what we remember, and how remembering is in and of itself a sketchy area, defined by so many things, from our brain synapses to our body's movements to the things around us. How many times have you wondered if you truly remember something or if it's because of photographs, or stories your parents told you? Perhaps some inkling of this has always spurred me to write. I write things down sometimes frantically, as if I am taking word-photographs of events, as if I fear that they will be gone from me almost before I have time to remember them.

I've long wanted to write a novel about memory, and I think that this is now upon me. I think this is the novel that is brewing in me next. It's not a particularly original theme, but its effects are with me now more than ever.

Quote of the day: (Still on Camus)
"Every artist is undoubtedly pursuing his truth. If he is a great artist, each work brings him nearer to it,or, at least, swings still closer toward this center, this buried sun where everything must one day burn." From the essay "The Enigma,"1950.

Do you know that Camus died in an automobile accident at the age of 47? Just think of all that was left inside him that we never got to know...It pains me.


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