Cradling each careful phrase, indeed each word in my mind exquisitely and exactly as I meant, I hastened to the computer only to have it all blank out! I suddenly could not remember my meticulously honed and crafted, brilliant opening lines …TO THE VERY ESSAY YOU ARE READING!
Panic! Despair. What if Percy Bysshe Shelley had inscribed, “Hail to thee blithe spirit…” with his glorious quill and then lost the rest?
What if Charles Dickens had enthusiastically penned, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” then paused – and forgot?
Imagine if William Shakespeare had introduced, “A pair of star-crossed lovers” and then stopped cold.
I tried and tried to remember my chosen words.
Shelley was twenty-four when he wrote his “Ode On A Grecian Urn”. Charles Dickens was forty-seven when “A Tale of Two Cities” appeared.
William Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet” when he was about twenty-nine.
I thrashed myself mentally: Dope! Moron! Why didn’t you write things down?
Because I thought I could remember.
You thought, you thought! Eighty-four-year-olds don’t think. THEY FORGET!
Who knows? Ask God.
Probably I should just call the game and concede. I know these signs. Once this blanking out happens to a writer, she should quietly gum a zwieback and gracefully retire. I mourn all those various skills I neglected to practice much earlier, even properly gumming a zwieback – which I never mastered.
For me, now, the elusive memories of important dates, times, places, familiar names and exquisitely phrased sentences are all chimera. They dissipate soon after they occur in my aged mind. So does so much else. Sometimes I don’t even remember the names of current acquaintances. Nouns, for some reason that no one yet knows, vanish first. It’s as though my mind cleans house to chide me for hating the actual “womanly” chores. I really do hate to clean house!
Alas! For years I’ve devised schemes for recall, for memory, for jotting things down, but life always gets in the way of note taking. Good resolves disappear as quickly as the treasured hinted reminders or the forgotten verbal gems. With each new catastrophe there is the regular sequence: I forget. I am horrified at the breach.
I struggle futilely to recall; rarely do I succeed and feel triumph. Mostly I fail.
I despair. I resolve to do better.
I devise new mnemonic devices to help myself (which I often forget). And then it happens again.
Why not just give up? Retire. Leave the writing for younger and fresher minds?
Who really cares what I have to say?
Alas, I cannot give up writing. I’ll have to give up breathing first. For me writing is not an elective act; it’s a vital function – it’s breathing via my mind to fulfill the needs of an eccentric heart.
So I persist.
Now, where did I hide that memo with its title in bold? CONCLUSION!
Ah hah, it’s here nice and safe. I hid it in the freezer with all the other perishables!