Friday, October 3, 2014

Strange memories

The mind is a very strange thing.

I'm not saying my mind is a strange thing ... well it is, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.

Trying to write this post is a simple example.  I have started writing this many times but wind up going out on long and intense tangents while reliving many moments from my life.

I often wonder what triggers memories ... or even how memories are stored and recalled.  Why is it that I can remember incredible details of events that happened when I was 4 or younger, yet other events are not as quickly summoned to my conscious mind?

Why is it that I can remember so many facets of my sister's wedding?

I can see her in her gown ... beautiful and elegant.  The slight crack in our father's voice when he gave her away.  The reception ... the little candies so smooth and melting in my mouth with such a mild mint flavor.  But despite all the good my mind inevitably returns to the day I was with her and my mom at Sears looking for a brown suit.

I never liked Sears in the first place.  There was always an ambient hum emanating from the PA system with occasionally interrupted by a loud crackle followed by a louder and deeper hum while a low beeping code echoed through the store.  This particular day seemed to drag on.  I was beyond bored, but my sister kept looking through all the racks.

I found a brown suit and pointed it out.  This launched my sister into a screaming and crying tirade.  I could repeat what she said, but it is not relevant ... it hurt.  I was trying to help and I got ripped apart.  I doubt she even realized what she did ... I doubt she remembers, but I do.


My brother and I reminisce with laughter about the day our elder brother threw us in the back of our 1963 Datsun with no seat belts to look for my sister who had apparently run away.  The taste of the dust and oil tinged exhaust fill my senses as we tell the story.

Despite these fond and funny memories this always triggers the events before the wild ride.  I remember being so bored with whatever was on TV that I chose to walk around the back yard.  Because I was outside by myself I was not allowed to go behind the detached garage because ... actually, I don't remember why that was a rule, but it was ... and I went there ... and I was scared that I would get caught.

Then I saw my sister on the outside of the fence ... just sitting there.  I was breaking a rule, but so was she.  I walked to the fence and asked what she was doing.  She didn't really answer, but she basically threatened me to not tell anyone.

To this day she swears this did not happen ... that nobody saw her.

I went back into the house.  I couldn't tell anyone where she was without admitting that I broke the rules.  This conflict made me feel sick.

After a bit my elder brother and eldest sister realized she was not in the house.  After an angry hunt through every room my elder brother asked if I had seen her.  I was paralyzed ... If I say no I would be lying and get in trouble ... if I say where I saw her I admit I broke the rules and get in trouble.

"She was up by the back fence when I was outside."  I couldn't make eye contact.  I didn't want either my elder brother or sister to be angry with me.  I likely eventually let it slip that she was on the other side of the fence, but I was near tears and was afraid so I am not sure what was said by whom for a while.

After a quick search of the yard we were in the Datsun searching ... because I said that is why we were on the back road searching.

So I find myself in an uncomfortable situation.  I am told that I need to deal with my emotions ... but if I tell stories about hurtful situations I am told that I am dwelling on the negative, that I am airing dirty laundry or that I am not taking the feelings of others into consideration.

What about my feelings?

I do not like the fact that even in the midst of a good memory of a fun time a hurtful or negative flashback intervenes ... it just happens.

So even when I am remembering some hilarious times like chasing Mr. Schofield with water balloons or my brother, sister and I dominating a summer bowling league, there is always the hurtful jab attached ... like being told that I was not a good bowler, that the only reason I was on the family team was to give the other two handicap.

Or when I remember the company picnic at Hurricane Harbor I will remember floating in the endless river with Timmy and going down a couple of viscous water slides the memories drift to Maya, a coworker's granddaughter playing in the wave simulator when she got overwhelmed and panicked.

Was she drowning?  I'm not sure, but she did yell for help as she went under the water.

I don't know if the lifeguards didn't react or if my nerves made me quick to react.  I had promised Leo that I would watch his granddaughter ... but Timmy was there, too.

I'm not sure how or why, but I tend to remain calm is stressful situations.

I swam over and grabbed Maya and helped her stay afloat for a second.  I looked a Timmy and told him, "Stay with me.  Keep a hold on me ... I can't hold both of you."  I shifted Maya to the lifesaver hold and swam sidestroke to the edge of the pool.

By this time they had stopped the simulator, but there were still swells ... and idiots that would not get out of my way, even with the lifeguard yelling at them.  I got them both to the side and the lifeguards helped us all out.

"Thanks," one of them said. "I didn't really want to get wet today."  He laughed a bit, I think trying to ease the tension ... but this is when my calm usually wears off and the emotions kick in.

Maya stood there and gasped for a few moments as she began to cry.  The staff was so nice to her and Timmy both.

In the adrenaline rush I forgot that Timmy would be shaken ... but he handled everything pretty well.  Afterward, on the way home he talked about it being scary ... but we still had fun.

So why, I can hear you ask ... why is that a negative thought?

Because it shouldn't have happened.  I should have known that the waves would be too strong for a pre-teen girl like Maya with no raft or other flotation device ... I should have never let her drift as far away as she did.  If I had truly looked after her I would have talked her out of the wave pool.  Every time I think of this I feel her panic ... I see the uncertainty in Timmy's eyes when I said I couldn't carry him ... the fear Leo showed when the staff escorted us to him because he had to sign some papers regarding the rescue.

Rescue - to deliver from danger.

Danger - exposure to harm or injury

As random as these memories are, I do not know what triggers them ... or any of the thousand other memories that roam my mind every hour ... every minute.

The smell of cooked yams brings the memory of my father yelling at me for wasting food because I didn't like the flavor of the yams ... plain, boiled yams ... mushy and bitter with a sickening smell.  I was sent to the table on the patio and was not allowed to leave until I ate every bite.

One of my sister did try to help by sitting beside me and feeding me.  I gagged every bite down ... there wasn't enough water, punch or turpentine to wash the awfulness from my taste buds.  "Just a couple more bites." she said.

"I can't."  I think I was crying n=by this time.  I know I was having trouble breathing ... but the spoon came back to my mouth and everything in my stomach went back onto the plate.

She did clean up and threw everything away outside as she told me to leave the table ... but the smell of yams triggers the memory and truly makes me want to puke again.

When I explain this there are some who say things like, "I just choose to not have bad memories."

Really?  No bad memories?  Please tell me how because that would be wonderful.  Hell, I can't even think of the 4th of July family get togethers which were 70% or more fond memories without remembering my sister and brother in law exploding into a political argument.  It made me sick makes me sick.

"Always look for the positive in a situation."

I don't see a positive in a bus driver hitting a kid in the crosswalk and killing her.  Even though it was not out of my yard and even though I only taught the class portion of her training I was grilled for 2 hours by CHP and CDE while running a 100+ fever ... then came the lawyers and the depositions.  And I think about that poor girl and her family whenever I drive past the intersection ... I wonder if I should have noticed something in the way the trainee behaved in class that might have been a clue to potential problems.

"Everyone is allowed to be sad occasionally, but if you keep a positive attitude you won't be depressed."

Ummm ... no comment.  Seriously.  Especially coming from a person who should have some basic knowledge of depression and other issues.

So have I had a terrible life?


Do I try to remember all the bad things?

No.  It just happens, and it sucks ... but I am trying to deal with it.  I just can't deal with it if it stays bottled up.

Even as I am trying to end this entry I am having flashbacks ... the hurt look on Timmy's face when I got angry over something insignificant ... The times I've hurt Pam, or have not been there when she's needed me.  That has been a lot lately ... not being there ... mentally or emotionally