By: H. Anne Thurston, Columnist
During the years of 2009-10 researching the world of online dating was my way to escape the loneliness that descended upon me following the death of my husband and our sixty-five years of wonderful marriage. It was his wish that I find a companion for my remaining years. Both of us had witnessed what happened to our mothers following our father’s deaths. They had given up living and reclused themselves from the world in response to society’s expectations. Their own mothers had worn black for a year following their spouse’s deaths. It was expected.
Among the men I met as I traveled cyberspace into every state of our great country and across the border into Canada was one who lived in Oregon. Of my generation he had, like so many returning from WWll found he was eligible for a college education as a ‘thank you’ from the country he had served. This led to a medical doctorate and professorship of anatomy at Texas and Southern California Universities which terminated in his appointment as the head of a United States research center which dealt with the human brain. Today, although retired and eighty-six years old he is teaching an eighteen month course on the brain at the large retirement center where he lives. I would love to attend.
In our discussions we wandered through various related topics; among them memory. In conversations, especially among oldsters, things that we remember often emerge. Ray and I are forever recounting to each other things we have had happen to us or have done in past years; our lives have been down such different paths. But what I learned from my friend in Oregon is that we have no control over our memories. The mind is a part of the body which functions without direction from us. We can tell our hand what to do and when, or our legs in which direction to carry us. But the mind is an independent entity which goes on its merry way with no rules or regulations from us.
On any given day we can stop and think about what we have been about, who we have been with, what we have seen and done. And we might decide that the most memorable happening was hearing the doorbell ring and upon opening it discovering an old friend standing there. Fifty years later all that may cease to exist and instead our memory may remind us only of the tiny violet that had appeared under the cedar tree as we opened the door.
As I visit with family members and recount things I remember doing with them I am often corrected. “Now, Mother that wasn’t in March it was in April the next year.” I don’t argue because I know they are wrong. I trust my memory.
I have to admit that there are times I find it blank –or off in some world of its own making. Ray and I are constantly looking for something we just used an hour before or perhaps the week before. Of course, we are certain the reason it is missing is because of the other. Just yesterday we put up a new towel rack in the bathroom. In years past Ray would have done it with no help but his arthritic hands won’t always cooperate now days. So it was that I was turning the screw driver as he held the flashlight to help me see. This morning he went to the junk drawer in the kitchen for the flashlight and it wasn’t there. “Where in the heck did you put the flashlight, Anne? Can’t you ever remember to put things away?”
Of course I immediately reminded him that he was the one using the flashlight in the bathroom and where did he put it?
We both looked; first in the bathroom and then throughout the house, even out onto the back porch where we had wrapped its furniture ready for winter. No flashlight was found. It was today as he was dressing that the flashlight mysteriously appeared on the shelf at the head of his bed. No, memory can’t always be counted on. Subconsciously our mind may be preoccupied with something other than what we think it is.
The human mind has been scientifically charted as to its areas and what their functions appear to be. And as research embraces the ‘whys’ and ‘wheres’ of the brain man has come to suspect there is much more to be discovered than he ever dreamed.
The reoccurring memory flashes of tragic happenings that haunt the abused or injured should remind us that how we treat others not only affects their body and heart but also their mind.