Doubting Your Own Memory

Today’s guest post comes from PlainJane

 

Many years ago, I’m guessing 1977 or 78, I attended a PHC show on the campus of St. Kate’s.  I don’t remember who was on the show, but I recall vividly that when Garrison was holding forth with the News From Lake Wobegon, he became so enthralled with his own yarn that he completely forgot about time.  Mesmerized, the audience sat, leaning forward in their seats, and let themselves be transported to that magical place that only a good story teller can take you.

By the time his new report ended and he realized that he had exceeded the time allocated for the live radio show, there was nothing he could do about it.  So, he causally mentioned that the show had run long, but that we might as well just finish up with some music, after which there was a stampede for the bathrooms.

Last year was the 40th anniversary of the PHC, and everyone remotely familiar with the show was reminiscing about their favorite PHC memories.  But I didn’t see or hear anyone ever mentioning the show that had continued past it’s live broadcasting time.  I began to doubt that it had ever happened.  Until yesterday, that is.

Garrison wrote on FB about a show he had done the previous night.  The show had lasted three hours, too long for a weeknight in his own estimation.  He had promised himself earlier in his career, he said, to not be so long-winded, but admitted that it was a promise he hadn’t been able to keep, but a promise he is rededicating himself to.

One of the responses he got to this post was a from a woman in Eagan.  She, too, had attended that PHC show that had gone overtime.  I responded to her that I had been at that show at St. Kate’s, and she confirmed that that was in fact where it was.

I have mentioned that show to others a couple of times, but have never met anyone who had heard about it, or believed it.  I feel vindicated.

When have you come to doubt a memory?

100 thoughts on “Doubting Your Own Memory”

  1. I find the doubting comes when I am recalling it out loud. I am informed that there is another version of the true story on the planet. I know what gash darn happened but some other earthling has an idea about how it went. Let them live in some paralell universe without messing with me please, thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Often. But a family memory is hard to doubt. When I was in grade school, our family had watched an animated movie called “The Point” on TV one night. It is a delightful, quirky movie about Obleo and his dog Arrow. Obleo was a round-headed boy in a kingdom of pointy-headed people, so he was banished. But his trusty dog, Arrow, accompanied him on his journey meeting up with a variety of fascinating characters. The pop song, “Me and My Arrow” by Harry Nilsson was featured. We totally LOVED this movie.

    So, next day at school we’re all talking about it with friends and classmates. No one else had seen it or even heard of it. My siblings and I were baffled. Why is it no one else had seen this cool movie, and we went around quoting some of the lines from the movie like this bit of sage advice — “you don’t have to have a Point … to have a point”, etc. So of course, we figured we were special and part of a secret club because it seemed like no one else had seen this awesome movie on TV. We still joke about it to this day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. the point is a favorite. your quote is what came to mine at once. you dont have to have a point to have a point is a great example of words to live by.
      i wrote a couple days ago about my little space for study below my parents stairs and in that room i had a killer stereo system. the point was a big part of my life in that space. i had the album a long time before i had seen the movie.

      Like

  3. Rise and …..UMmmmm, I forgot, Baboons!

    I have always had a very good memory. Too good, in fact. It is kind of embarrassing when I remember names and people don’t remember my name. Oh well.

    As I get older it is not as good as it once was and I constantly do the thing where I get to another room and can not remember why/what I came there for. Don’t like that one.

    And now I must go to the dentist, an appointment I would love to forget.
    PJ, I have been to a few PHC’s where GK ran way over, especially in the “World Theater” early days.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It must be a sister thing. There have been many times that my middle sister clearly remember something that none of the rest of us remember. We quit telling her years ago.

        Like

      2. Except for a few indisputable facts that we both agree on, to hear my sister talk about our childhood, you’d think we grew up in different households.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I genuinely feel bad for my sister. She feels she has just a handful of childhood memories, although those tend to be vivid and detailed. Alas, she also has a brother who has tried (gently) to show her that some of her memories are false. I hate challenging her, and yet some of the false memories are hurtful, which leaves me unsure about how I can respond helpfully.

          Like

    1. I wonder if family memories evolve to support the narrative of the holder of the memories. Or is it a chicken/egg situation? One person has a narrative that says “Our family was very happy and well-adjusted”, another person has a narrative that says “My sibling was always the favored child and I got the short end of the stick”, or “Our parents fought like cats and dogs” or whatever. The memories tend to validate the narrative…but which came first?

      Liked by 5 people

        1. I have two very vivid memories of incidents while visiting auntie Winnie and uncle Fred in Newcastle, and we left Newcastle when I was 26 months old.

          Like

  4. Robin went to a very early PHC. It was at Macalester, I think, in a room with just rows of folding chairs. One of Garrison’s guests was a belly dancer. I don’t remember all the details because I wasn’t there, but I could manufacture something, if you like.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. One of the things that I’ve sadly never seen Dale transfer from TLGMS to the Trail is Nephew Thomas, Radio Daredevil. Maybe because of my theatre career, but I always found the sheer cleaverness of those bits on so many levels pure genius.

          I fear we lost Nephew Thomas with Tom Keith, and perhaps rightly so.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. early memories are interesting. i remember the big house we lived in in brainerd when i was two. it was on bu]luff overlooking the river. i have been back and it is a little bigger than a double garage. it was big back at the time. makes me wonder about racing around town at 100 mph on my tractor too. i do remember my babysitter darlene and ll those petticoats though…. for sure

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Old memories for me are strong and vivid. I suspect this is partly why I find the complete remaking of a place so distressing, especially if big earth-moving machines are involved.

    Also distressing is when those clear pictures are contradicted-where would I get that video in my head if it never happened? The contradictions often seem to coincide with the other person’s need for a different story too… hmmm.

    The day to day, did I turn off the stove stuff, not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve talked too much about memory. I used to believe I had a terrible memory, for my wife told me so about three times a day for 31 years. Then I learned otherwise. Since then, I’ve made a game of fact-checking my memory. And I fear I’ve grown tedious talking about this.

    One quick example. In 2004 I visited Manchester, Iowa, the home of my grandparents. My mother, infant Crystalbay and I lived there during WW II. I was able to drive from my grandparents’ home five blocks to ugly duplex where we lived until my dad came home from the war. I found that old brown home easily, although the last time I saw it was when I was three, walking that route on city sidewalks, my mother pushing a baby carriage.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is how my memory works too. I can go straight to a place-and when it is for whatever reason not there, it is really unsettling. I have maybe 5 variations on this theme I will try and get written this coming week (s&h will be gone and all my area friends are on various family vacations in Europe-I should jolly well get some stuff done!).

      Like

      1. Or you may just want to binge on music and cats and naps and ice-cream and moonlit nights… rather than being in front of a computer. It’s YOUR time; be sure you have fun with that. 🙂

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Thanks for that thought. I have all of Harry Potter (non-fans, your opinion has been noted, thank you) on cd to listen to while cranking out piles of work with hopefully the rest of Downtown Abbey (I just finished season 2-first library had 4&5- will check elsewhere for 3- tell me nothing!) for viewing.

          It would actually be satisfying to get some of this out of my head and into words.

          Oh, and I also have a beautiful fluffy black kitty to convince that people aren’t so bad.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. if there is nothing there to remind me of how it was i have a difficult time putting two and two together. if i drive by a place and remember it as i saw it in 1958 or 65 or 73 i remember how it was and what buildings changed or left and i feel bad for trees that got cut to make room for something that got buldozed in the meantime, beautiful woods turned into an ugly 7 11 since gone vacant. it drives me crazy to see a piece of property turned into a subdivision of boring characterless boxes but i remember the way the trees used to line the rolling hills before they got flattened to line up the chocolate milk shake 3 car garage postage stamps lots with black suvs and white minivans that mark the progress the millennials see as normal life.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I emailed my sister with the Trailer Court post, and she hasn’t had time to respond yet. I’m wondering if she will concur on all that I wrote…

    It seems like I am constantly mentioning something to Husband that happened that he doesn’t remember. But then there are large gaps in his childhood memories, too, so I’ve decided I just have the better memory.

    I have been alarmed recently at the number of things I DO forget. Truly, if we make a date and you don’t see me write it down, don’t assume anything.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Husband’s memories from his childhood are extremely spotty. For instance, he can barely remember his mother who died of breast cancer when he was sixteen years old. Sixteen, and he can barely remember her. That seems very strange to me. I suppose there’s a logical explanation, but I have no idea what that might be.

      Like

      1. It’s perilous to try to draw conclusions about someone you don’t really know. If I were to hazard a guess, though, I might guess that she was ill for a period of time before her death, and that Husband distanced himself from her emotionally during her illness, as a self-protective measure. Sometimes kids just don’t know what else to do.

        Only a guess, though. I’m no psychologist.

        Liked by 4 people

  9. My memory is mediocre at best. There are important past events, people, and milestones that are just gone, as if they never happened. Fortunately, there are other things that I keep pretty good track of so I’m not overly concerned that I’m totally losing my mind. My husband has an amazing memory for a lot of the past, lots of really specific things that I don’t remember at all (some that I really don’t much care about, but some that sound fun, I wish I remember that I’d done that). However, his short term memory is not at all good. It will be interesting to see, when the present is the past, when today’s events have moved to long-term storage, if he remembers then what he doesn’t remember now.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Like OC, there are gaps in my memory where I can’t recall fairly significant things. But then there is all that small stuff that seems as sturdy as platinum. Last night I told Molly something like that, a story my dad told me when I was about 13. Workers at a supermarket wanted to play a trick on a co-worker. They opened up the hood of his car so they could attach some whizzbang fireworks to his ignition system. This thing was supposed to shriek and smoke when he started his car. Tied up under the hood was a five-pound ham this guy had stolen from the store. He lost his job.

    I don’t know how I can remember a story I heard once six decades ago. Sometimes it feels like I remember everything my dad ever told me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s one of the things about memory that fascinates me, Steve, the stuff we remember as opposed to the stuff we do not. Much of what what I personally remember is insignificant, and yet I remember it in amazing detail and with great clarity.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Linda’s comment is one clue, PJ. Some moments are memorable because they fit in a larger narrative we carry in our heads. What I’ve noticed about my own memory is that i have remarkable recall for any little bit of script that is itself a “story,” by which I mean it has a beginning, middle, end and some kind of thematic integrity. I remember so much from my father because he was a storyteller. I think his mind worked in ways entirely different from someone who was clever, for example like Dale. But anything that had the pattern of a story was unforgettable.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. It occurs to me that, for better or worse, there are a lot of things we don’t need to remember any more because it’s so easy to just look them up. The art of remembering is probably a use it or lose it thing and the important personal things that are not so easy to retrieve on the internet are just as vulnerable to being misplaced as how long ago Elvis died.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. my daughter and her husband have the same anniversary as my folks used to. we were talking about which anniversay this would have been and i could remember that i went to their 50th a few years before my dad died but couldnt remember how long ago that was so i wasnt able to put two and two together. but i can remember all sorts of littel things about the anniversary party and the people who were there and the conversations i was involved in and overheard. but i was a couple years off in how long hes been dead. the mind is very mysterious. i am a jumbled mess of useless non related trivia that makes ocnversation interesting as long as you dont have an agenda as to where it is supposed to end up. if the point was to figure out a specific thing im about and 80/20 shot and it could be either way

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Couple of things I find interesting:
    – how having only photos of something creates an odd kind of memory – it essentially becomes a memory of the photo.
    – every so often I’ll have a fleeting, instantaneous memory that I can’t explain how it came… I think there are synapses that maybe touch other synapses and trigger a flash of memory.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, but having a photo can actually trigger a real memory. When I was three my grandparents took a series of photos of me with my sister, my mother and some fruit. This was a comic photo, or their attempt at comedy. My grandfather, a professional photographer, often took “cute” photos (like my avatar photo) of kids. My mother was holding a rolling pin as if she were about to brain my sister and me for being reluctant to eat the fruit. I remember that photo session. Ironically, I wanted to eat the banana but was prevented from doing that. It was there as a prop. During the war, real fruit was precious.

      And this relates to something else I have learned. Remembering one thing almost always leads to remembering something else. Each time you reach back in memory to pull something back it tends to come with other memories attached, and reflecting on them brings up more.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve mentioned here before my friend, Ken, who has Frontotemporal Dementia. It’s a rapid deterioration of that part of the brain. FTD affects men in much larger numbers than women. It’s been less than three years since the first signs of trouble began and a little over two years since he was diagnosed. He is now 65 years old.

    Ken can’t remember the meaning of words. His standard answer to just about any question is “I don’t know.” When I take him out for lunch, for instance, I’ll ask him if he likes fish. He’ll tell me he doesn’t know, that he doesn’t know that word.

    I discovered by accident that Ken remembers places when he sees them. So now, whenever I’m out driving with him, I make a point of driving to Highland Park. That’s where he lived when he first came to the Twin Cities after graduating from college (I did not know this). As soon as I cross the Ford Bridge he’ll tell me “I used to live over here,” and he’ll give me directions to his apartment building. He gets visibly excited that he remembers something, so that’s one small pleasure I can give him.

    Ken doesn’t remember his three grown daughters’ names, and although he lives at home with his wife, he doesn’t know who she is either. He has no idea who I am, or what my name is, and I’ve known him forty years and have seen him weekly for over a year. But he remembers where his first apartment in the Twin Cities is. I only surmise that whatever part of the brain that remembers places is different than the part that remembers people? Go figure.

    One thing that I’m pondering is the extent to which Ken can think. Do you need words in order to think? I know he doesn’t understand much of what I tell him, or at least he doesn’t have the ability to respond appropriately, but I wonder if he somehow comprehends more than what he can express?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love this kind of observation and speculation. Can we know things without words? That is exactly the way I know things in dreams. I know who is with me and what we are doing, even if I can’t remember seeing faces. In a dream, people (or least this person) knows many things in a way that differs from day-to-day awake knowing.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. We also know that smell can instantly evoke a memory of a specific time and place. Music can do much the same. There are different pathways to access the same memories.

        Neuroscience is endlessly fascinating to this baboon.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Temple Grandin talks about how she thinks in pictures not words as she suspects animals do. Though she is quite adept with words. Does Ken remember your face but not your name or are you a new person to him each time you appear? Is each day like starting over or do old memories keep surfacing? Fascinating to ponder, indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s hard to tell, Cynthia. Ken is quite adept at faking it. I know he’s always glad to see me, and always very appreciative of our four hours together, but honestly, I don’t know if he recognizes me.

          About his daughters, he knows he has three daughters, but just doesn’t recognize them, can’t tell them apart, or remember which one is married, where they live, etc. So part of his memory is functioning but there are pieces of the puzzle missing.

          Like

    2. bless you pj. thanks for being such a nice person

      i heard a quote today about how good and evil are something we all know and it crosses our heart
      but i cant remember who it was by.
      i get concerned when i slip and have the brain farts pop up more obviously than i think they should. it seems to be creeping up. that i cant remember my dogs name when im standing next to him and stuff like that. hang on tight is all i can say

      The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.
      Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/aleksandr_solzhenitsyn.html#cLLrkIAfGgfq5y1Q.99

      yep thats who it was

      Liked by 1 person

  14. When ever I see some one that looks familiar Kelly asks if I went to HS with them. It’s become a joke in our house.
    However I graduated with 425 people and if you figure in the sophomore and Junior class, Plus Rochester isn’t really *that* big. So I do remember going to school with a lot of them.

    But others just look familiar and I can’t remember why.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I was convinced that my best friend told me she knitted sweaters for rescue chickens who had lost feathers and needed sweaters for warmth until their feathers grew back. I mentioned it on the blog and Dale asked me if my friend would agree to an interview . I contacted her and she was puzzled and told me she didn’t knit chicken sweaters. My was I puzzled and embarrassed.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Perhaps I’ve been overly-impressed, but my brother’s memories are so incredibly vivid and mine so sketchy that I doubt ever memory I’ve produced over time. He can recall actual conversations and circumstance; I cannot. So yes, it doesn’t feel very good to have my own limited memories invalidated, but he’s always right, I think.

    One such memory was that I walked the bandshell stage to give Ike a stuffed elephant to Ike. I can remember exactly what I wore and having Ike kiss me on the cheek. I remember the whole thing. Except, it apparently never happened and Steve told me so.

    Years later, I came across a picture of someone else giving the elephant to Ike. I was crushed to learn that this never happened. If this didn’t happen, then how could I ever trust a memory again?

    I guess the only memory I can experience is what’s called “emotional memory”. This is that, no matter what the actual circumstances, the way it is incorporated in memory is emotional. I’ve had enough emotional memories to more than last a lifetime.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. They say that for days after the Twin Towers fell, you could see their after image. I truly belive this on several levels.

    Like

  18. One can never tell what age would do to the memory. They also say that humans exist because they forget the past; it would be too much stress for the brain if it never forgets and remembers everything.

    And so, everyone including me is prone to memory loss.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.