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.