Things keep perking along in “Normal Land” until something reminds me that normal is the place I should want to be. Because sometimes I forget that almost ten years ago I was diagnosed with DCIS, Stage 0 breast cancer. I remembered recently when I made my annual appointment for a yearly physical. My remembering checks me into this weird waiting room space, where my brain starts to go places it shouldn’t go. The “what if’s” and “maybe’s” of the la la land I live in when I remember.
Yes, sometimes I forget. Until I gaze into my nephew and niece’s newborn baby girl’s face, which causes me to remember my sister-in-law, Nancy, that little girl’s grandma. A grandma she’ll never meet, only knowing her through our remembering by sharing stories I don’t want to forget.
And sometimes I forget how blessed I am to live in a wonderful, caring community in the beautiful Midwest where the seasons change. That is, until I allow myself to gaze out the window at the stillness and beauty of a winter snowfall. Or indulge in a sit on my beloved front porch to just enjoy the gentle whisper of the wind upon my face. Nature lets me get lost in my thoughts and always helps me remember.
But then there’s the Sunday afternoon when I pick up the phone to call my dad, like I did every Sunday for 35 years after my mom died. Because I forgot for a moment that he passed away two years ago. Putting my phone down, I reach for a wooden cross that was once dad’s. I grasp it, breathing in memories of him, feeling the presence of his fingerprints.
Sometimes I forget why I like to bake or make certain foods. Until the aromas waft throughout the house. A smell from the bread maker triggers delicious childhood memories of my mother baking bread on a Saturday morning. Closing my eyes, I can see her in standing at the kitchen counter, expertly kneading the dough. A warm slice of homemade whole wheat bread, slathered with butter and drizzled with honey was my prize for waiting, albeit not so patiently. A taste of home. Remembering what I’ve forgotten makes me feel safe and loved.
And sometimes I forget the carefree days of my youth, until I hear Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock,” which puts me right back at age 12 listening to the very first song on my very first radio. Listening to it over and over, the words are now memorized, etched into the far corners of my brain, ready for instant recall.
So now I’m wondering why does the mind forget? Is it because returning to “normal” is normal? Is living in the present the desired state? Is my mind protecting me from the pain of past memories? Because forgetting our pain from the past doesn’t really mean it’s gone. Each painful thing I’ve “forgotten” is like a layer, a scab, that eventually turns into a memory scar. Not something visible, but part of me, a chapter in my story.
I haven’t figured out if ripping off the scab is reliving the pain, preserving the past or is honoring its impact on my life. Or is remembering the “forgotten” just useless time wishing things could be different? Adding to my emotional mix tape, forgetting also makes me feel guilty that I haven’t remembered.
So perhaps the answer is there is no answer.
Except that time does soften the scar and makes the wound less painful. The scar becomes part of me. I guess it’s up to me how I interpret forgetting and remembering and what I carry with me moving forward. I don’t want to dwell on the fact that sometimes I forget, but rather bring my past to a future where I’ll forget what needs to be forgotten and remember what’s important.