Age / Memory / Uncategorized


brain-shrink-674x450For preference, I call them lagoons because it’s a nicer word. Also, because in Spanish they are known as lagunas.

I only mention this because, although I am bilingual (I prefer ‘bicultural’ as it’s closer to the truth), I have a tendency to use a word in English that I know sounds about the same in Spanish. It usually stems from Latin and/or Greek and I also know it sounds pedantic. Which I am free to admit, I am. That’s only because I know so much.

What? I hear you snigger.

The trouble with knowing so much is brain capacity. And it is a fact that the brain gets smaller as we grow older. According to my measly research, this is not associated with senility or Alzheimer. It just is.

56340782_Brain-wires-480x480I have no idea what size or weight my brain may have been in the past but I’m certain it’s a bit smaller than it used to be. Of course, this may have something to do with there being too many utterly useless pieces of information stored therein.

Being pedantic means that I can spout these jewels at just about any time on any subject (except football, which doesn’t apparently need a brain at all, it being all about feet, which is at the other end of the anatomy anyway).

Having a brain implies having a mind, though I’m not too sure about that, either. All I know is that I have a mind of my own.

Or do I?

Unlike a computer, I can’t simply click on the Search button

Nowadays, having reached an overripe old age, I am aware that lots of those pieces of information are well outdated and so, ever more useless.

The thing is, I have discovered a lot of lagoons. Bits of memories missing. Unlike a computer, I can’t simply click on the Search button and there they will pop up, in a long lost file somewhere. The memories are there, I’m certain, lodged on the tip of my tongue … but lost, possibly in the dentures I have to soak every night. (Is this a variance of a wet brain, I wonder.)

Yes, I do memory exercises, lots of them. Like where did I leave my glasses. Or why did I come to the fridge. Which child of mine has which birthday. The name of someone I’ve known for years when I’m trying to be polite and introduce them to someone else whose name I’ve also forgotten. This usually ends up with me flapping my arms across my chest and mumbling “Introduce yourselves.” For a pedant this is very embarrassing.

These are the potholes, lagoons being too smooth and calm in this context. One can fall into a pothole, you know. I have the bruised knees to show for it.

Back to lagoons. Just the other day I received some old photographs of myself and my then wife and some friends. Not only had I forgotten that I had grown a superbly dark moustache at the time, thus making it difficult to identify myself in the pictures (the tight shirt open to the navel was no help, either), but I had no idea who these friends might have been. Fortunately, the kind person who sent them had tagged them on Facebook, so at least I had an idea. However, I was very glad I didn’t have to introduce them to anyone. (Yes, it was easy to put a name to my gorgeous wife, though that may have had nothing to do with the brain. I have to admit there were certain memories that did return in this regard.)

No, the lagoons I am talking about are deeper and darker, treacherous. I fall into those when attempting to recover things about my early life, for instance. Now, I know, thanks to that measly research, that the two dreaded diseases of old age mentioned above are often blamed for short term memory loss. But I’m talking about long, very long term memory loss. Sad though this is, there are a few glimmers of some events.

One of these is an early proclivity towards curiosity. Here’s the story.

White powderI’m on the docks, having said goodbye to my beloved Nanny (a highly qualified child minder, hired by my mother to mind me from birth to over six years) who was leaving on a steamship back to her native England. On the road, among the tram tracks, were little mounds of a white powder that I bent down to sniff at. This elicited excitement among the adults, so I duly bent over to sniff the next one and the next. More excitement. Good, they were paying attention to me. Why this incident is so clear in my mind, I have no idea, but I do hasten to add that it did not lead me to sniffing any other kind of white powder at any time later in life. I’m guessing they were mounds of flour from a broken bag.

I have no real life recollection of my father, except through fading black and white photographs, now turning to sepia. He died when I was ten and all I remember about that are some painful memories of his funeral, which needed three coaches pulled by beautiful black, long-maned horses whose harnesses sported black feathers swaying with their gaiter. I also remember one of them leaving behind a steaming testament to its effort. This were duly splodged into the cobbles by a stream of splendid black cars following behind. Fascinating for a ten year old boy.

The Old Man (he was 53 when he popped it) was buried in an exclusive cemetery with mausoleums everywhere. His family had its own, a dim, dark, grey place with a little altar and an even dimmer and darker spot in the middle where the coffins were stacked on shelves on either side of the pit. I was told later that the bottom rows was cleared out every so often to make room for more. My father had a very large family.

As I said, there are glimmers of memory, some brighter than others. Being taught tennis by a one-armed Chilean pro is another one, but a story for another day.

My meager studies in psychology also tell me that these are ‘peak experiences’ and that many can be recovered by writing about them. This is a warning, Dear Reader.

Since I don’t go about thinking of shitting plumed black horses all day (if ever I do, please put me down as a kindness) there must be a plethora (See? there’s my Greek and my pedantry: an excess of something) of others floating about in my over-extended brain, or mind, that becomes smaller by the minute. But I don’t recall any right now.

©Alberto Bullrich 2016

Related: Your brain is shrinking

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