It’s Only a Date

I think there must be something wrong with me. I was talking with an old colleague of mine, David, about his rather cryptic Facebook message, and David mentioned it was 15 years to the day that his grandmother died. Of course this got us talking about death. He told me he knew exactly where he was when he found out. He told me where he was when John Lennon was shot as well. I couldn’t do this. I would have been 9 when he was shot in 1980, and most likely at school depending on the time of the day. I do know I was at school when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up on take-off.

I have no idea where I was when Elvis was found on his shitter. I would have been 6, but most people you ask will tell you they know where they were the day Elvis died. It’s safe to assume I wasn’t working or picking up chicks. I wasn’t born when JFK was assassinated and would have to take a guess at the exact year. I know, very sad. And even worse, my friends, is that the only reason I know MLK was assassinated on April 4 is because of a song called “Pride, In the Name of Love” by U2.

Maybe I’m just blissfully ignorant about the deaths of famous people and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is terrible though is I couldn’t tell you the dates of when my friends or relatives had died. I’d struggle for the years. Surely this is some sort of imbalance.

I can tell you every year that Tottenham has won the FA Cup, the leading scorer from every World Cup tournament since 1930, and the teams that won them. But can I remember something that should be more important than a few sporting statistics?

I could quote any number of movies word for word. And don’t ask me to sing a song for you because the number of tunes that I know the words to would astonish you. Why then, if my memory is that sharp, can I not remember where I was or when things happened if they are not trivial? I could try, but I would fail to tell you the years that my dad’s parents died. I know my older sister was married in 1989 only because it was a few short months after I turned 18 – the legal drinking age in Alberta. I’m almost certain my little sister got married in 1998 but I don’t have verifiable proof of that one. If there was personal significance to me that year I won’t have a recollection of the date. And how selfish did that just sound? Man, I’m a lousy brother and an odd human being.

I do know where I was when I found out my friend Bruce had died. I was standing in the center circle on field number 2 at Henry Singer Athletic Park in Edmonton when my friend Neil, one of the best friends I’ve ever had, told us all that Bruce had been found hanging from a rope in his basement. Neil had identified the body that morning. I had known Bruce for about 2 months but we had become quite the pair. He was one of those rare people who could leave his mark on you after only a single meeting. I could easily go back and find out exactly what date it was by simple arithmetic, but I should know by heart the day and year. We ended up winning that game 5-2, I scored twice, and kicked the other team silly such was my frustration. How I managed to stay on the field is a mystery to this day.

I had been the last person on the team to see Bruce alive. I had driven him back from the Irish Canadian Club on the Sunday having watched Manchester United beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final 1-0 on a goal by Eric Cantona (one of my idols). In my truck on the way home Bruce was all smiles. The game before (Thursday) he had scored his first goal in 2 years (a real belter too), he had just been promoted at his job, and he and his girlfriend were going to buy a new house. Things had never been better he said. And then the next Thursday I’m wearing a black armband in his honor.

So, why can’t I remember the little personal details about those I care about if it doesn’t have a significant link to me? Does it mean, in some way, that I don’t care? I hope that is not how it is perceived. Did I love my grandparents? Of course. My only regret is that I didn’t see more of them when I was growing up. The distance between Canada and Wales is a great one; and even back then an expensive journey for a family of five. But we made do. I have memories of them that I will have forever; even if I couldn’t tell you when they passed away.
Maybe this means I’m just a selfish asshole and only care when it concerns me? The Bruce scenario is easy because it was on a soccer night and I do love my soccer. And it involved me. And it was a one off situation – the only time I’ve found out a friend had died before a soccer game – naturally that will stand out a bit. I can’t remember his girlfriend’s name, the funeral parlour, or the name of the cemetery where he’s buried, but I remember that I scored a tap in for my first goal and then rounded the keeper when sent in clear for my second. I don’t even remember Bruce’s last name. I remember that Bruce’s girlfriend’s sister invited me over dinner the following week. But I don’t remember her name either.

I could not, even if I had a gun to my head, tell you when my first kiss was or who it was with. Seriously, I have no clue whatsoever. I don’t remember who I took on my first date, or what we did. I know people who remember what they were wearing the night they met their spouses or current significant others. I can’t remember that stuff about any of my 3 long-term partners I’ve had in my life. I think I was wearing a suit one night; but I’m not entirely sure. Yes, I do remember the name of the girl I gave my virginity to (I hate the term “lost it”. I knew exactly where it was going so I didn’t exactly lose it did I?). But I don’t remember much of the evening even though I hadn’t had a drink all night. These events should have a serious place in the annals of my mind but they don’t.

Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I only remember the things that I think will add to my illusion of greatness. But I don’t really have an illusion of greatness. Maybe I only remember things I want to remember because the things I forget might stir up bad emotions or unhappy memories? Whatever the reason is or isn’t for me remembering or not remembering; I hope it isn’t because deep down inside I don’t care. I want to care. And I think I do.

16 thoughts on “It’s Only a Date

  1. You are not alone. I can only remember highly significant dates i.e. death of my Father – birth of my children. In the great scheme of things, a date is just that a date….however memories do stay with me as if floating in time.
    Janet:)

    • I didn’t think I was too unusual with the dates thing. Maybe those that remember where they were when Elvis bit it are the odd ones?

  2. The brain is a funny thing and memory even more so. Personally, I have a real problem with dates (or anything involving numbers) but can always remember how I felt, certain smells or what the weather was like on specific occasions. I reason that my mind has its own reasons for remembering certain things and discarding others. I don’t think it shows a lack of care. Just a human brain doing its own weird and wonderful thing.

  3. I have the opposite problem!! I remember birthdays, dates and telephone numbers but there is not one song I know by heart. I have to see a person several times to remember the face. I mix up all the names. But I can say the first 10 minutes of “Toy Story” because for about 6 months my son watched that movie about 4 times a day (or at least, the first 10 minutes). 🙂

  4. It’s obvious that you care, and it’s not so pretty on the other side. There are certain dates that haunt me, and try as I may, I just can’t command my brain to not react to the calendar. Song lyrics evade me…even if it’s my favorite song. Let’s use “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin as an example. My version goes a little something like this: Shmoopy doopee blah something..another thing..something. Then I come in real strong with the chorus. “Ramble On, And now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song.” If you feel connected, it’s real. Dates and lyrics be damned.

    • My fave Zeppelin song. Possibly because of the Lord of the Rings reference. But it also has a great musical quality about it.

      I care. People know that. I’m just better at trivial I guess.

  5. My father routinely insists that my birthday is July 28. Sorry, but I was born on the 29th…

    My husband doesn’t remembers my birthday, but he’s a bit shaky on the kids’, and our anniversary. He knows about when they occur, but depends on me to let him know the exact dates (and, on a related not, I have the card he gave me when our oldest was born, where he mangled the spelling of the baby’s name. When we agreed to name him Jeremiah, I never thought we needed to discuss the spelling – he’d worked with two Jeremiahs the year before! If I see a word written, it’s pretty much engraved in my head, but my Accomplice isn’t geared that way).

    He doesn’t remember the dates our second son lived, either. Maybe that’s merciful, because those 12 days are engraved upon my soul, and life is – well, different – for me during them. There’s solace in the way he can go about his life normally – it grounds me and reminds me that the days will pass, and that we have a joyful life with much to be grateful for…

    It’s the way our minds work – different, but nothing wrong with either of us.

    I was 10 or 11 in 1980, when John Lennon died, and I was in the bathtub. I could hear the TV in the living room; my mother was on of those teenage Beatlemaniacs, and she kept the news on. I really didn’t know much about John Lennon.

    I remember Elvis dying when I was 7. My sister was a fan. I don’t know what I was doing when he died.

    I totally know what I was doing when I heard Gene Roddenberry died. I was driving to work, and I spent the day with a kind of stunned detachment from everything. Gene was a pretty huge moving force in my life, after all…

    Challenger devastated me, in ways I still have trouble pondering too deeply. I wasn’t in school that day; New York State was running two days of makeup Regents Exams, and, since I didn’t need to take any, I had the day off.

    My sister and I were doing homework (well, I might have been writing fanfiction, instead, but I had been studying, too) at the kitchen table I heard my mother coming home for her lunch break and went to get her a cup of coffee, intending to cross the living room and meet her at the door. I was three steps into the room, the steaming cup in my hand, when she told me the shuttle had exploded. It felt like I was unable to move.

    Incidentally, my son has the same birthday as Christa McAuliffe, the first ‘teacher in space.” He was born on September 2, 2001 – and, 9 days later, I was in our travel trailer just outside Yellowstone National Park, when a neighbor knocked on our door to tell me about the attacks. I hadn’t had much sleep, because the baby was wakeful, and it all felt surreal as I watched the news and cried on his brand-new face..

    WOW – I think I’ve just about written a blogpost here!

  6. I just stumbled upon this video while watching other mindless videos (don’t judge). The title is “Guy Torments Girlfriend With Lord Of The Rings Quotes”. I thought you, of all people, would get a kick out of it. That poor girl.

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