I Have No Memory

June 28th, 2010

I realize the above statement is going to lead to the same response I got when I said my house is messier than other people’s: a rush of readers hastening to (very kindly) reassure me that they too have faulty memories.

But in the same way I’m sure my house is messier than anyone else’s, I’m positive my memory is worse.

Case in point: my husband took my daughter to the bank to stow something in the safety deposit box.  (For the record, we have the smallest safety deposit box that exists and even so it’s mostly empty.  We were all musing on what people put in those enormous, file-drawer-sized boxes.  Bags of gold coins?  Ropes of diamond necklaces?  For some strange reason, the bank employee refused to share any specifics with us.)

Anyway, they met up with me later and my daughter told me with great excitement that there was a beautiful ring in the safety deposit box and asked why I didn’t wear it.  I stared at her blankly.  I said, “I had no idea I had a ring in there.”

We went back to the bank.  I opened the box and stared at the ring.  It looked familiar.  I was pretty sure I had seen it on my mother’s hand.  But I couldn’t remember anything else about it.  I put it on and it looked great.  So I left the bank with the ring still on my finger.  Later my sister confirmed it was my mother’s “good” wedding-band.  I then felt like I had a vague memory of wearing it for a while.  But no memory of putting it in the box (or asking my husband to).  And we’re not talking ancient past here–my mother only gave me the ring six years ago.  (I know this not because I remember when she did, but because she distributed her jewelry to her kids right before she died.)

Anyway, it was a good thing the ring ended up in that security deposit box.  With my memory, if I had stowed it for safe keeping somewhere in the house, I’d have forgotten all about it and probably never found it again.

In the past, I’ve done some little memory tests and so far my lack of a memory seems to be indicative of either exhaustion (check: lots of insomnia) or depression (semi-check, mostly of the PMS variety), and not anything more serious.

But then this weekend we went out to dinner with a neurologist friend who showed us one of his tests for Alzheimer’s: he hooks his fingers together and asks the patient to imitate what he’s done.   He ran through several finger positions for us.

And I couldn’t do them.  Seriously.  My husband and the doctor’s wife were blithely keeping up, but I was staring at his fingers and twisting my own together and trying to get them to do the same thing his were . . . and failing.  He kept coaching me and showing me the fingers from different angles, but mine wouldn’t go together like that.

Eventually his wife patted me on the shoulder and kindly told me not to worry about it and we stopped the exercise.

I’m not sure what to make of that.  I’m hoping the week of no sleep and glass of wine that preceded our dinner had something to do with it.

Meanwhile the kids lose patience with my bad memory five times a day–“Mom, I TOLD you about that already and you said it was fine”; “You promised me like three times you’d get that today–how could you forget?”; “What do you mean you’ve never seen that before?  You were with me when I bought it” and so on.  It drives them crazy.

And forget my childhood.  It’s gone.  So is everyone I knew up through college whom I’m no longer in touch with and any school parent I’ve met fewer than a half dozen times.  Sorry, by the way, if I meet you one day and I don’t remember you.  It’s not personal or malicious.  I really don’t remember you.

A mysterious clue to my forgotten past

On the plus side, I continue to find the same old jokes funny because I don’t remember the punchline.  See?  A silver lining.

  • Katherine says:

    It’s the button eyes, Claire. The bear is sucking the life right out of you. Put it in the drawer with the Krugerrands.

    • Claire says:

      That’s hysterical, Katherine. Will’s reading CORALINE in the class he’s taking right now and the teacher started going on and on about how terrifying button eyes are. She seemed really freaked out by them–but who isn’t?

  • annie says:

    I’m right there with you. I just hope that when I totally lose my mind, that I am happy and funny, rather than angry and mean. And I hope that I don’t take to using the f-word too often, although, I have a feeling I will.

  • Anonymous says:

    In that case, SUPPLIES

  • Claire says:


  • rachelhamm says:

    I have a good memory and yet my mom continues to argue with me about details of books we’ve both read. I’ll make a statement about a book, such as “Sari has an autistic brother in Knitting Under the Influence.” Mom will say, “I don’t know if she has an autistic brother or not, we’ll have to look it up.” I’ll say, “No, mom, I wasn’t asking a question. I was making a statement: Sari has an autistic brother.” “I don’t know,” she continues to say.

    So perhaps it’s motherhood that does it to you. Or at least being a mother to four kids (my mom has 4 kids, too).

    I’m sure someday if I have 4 kids (or any kids at all) all of my memory will be gone too.

    • Claire says:

      Oh, yeah, being a mother kills your memory because sleep deprivation kills your memory and nothing destroys your sleep like being up with a kid or worrying about one. That said, my mother had a phenomenal memory. She never forgot a thing. And she had five kids. But I think she was unusual that way.

  • Nancy says:

    I have no memories either. It drives me crazy. Very few things come to me. I met up with my best friend from high school and she was so happy to see me, ask about my whole family (by name etc), all I could remember was that we were best friends.. I hate it. Can anyone help?

  • Claire says:

    Nancy, that’s exactly my biggest problem: having conversations with people who remember everything about me and trying to maintain my half of the conversation without looking like a jerk who doesn’t care enough to remember anything about THEM.

  • Sally says:

    For me, it is the insomnia/worrying about the health of my children (one has ASD/Health issues). The time stamp on my husband’s ipad-thingy (“grrr,” says the ludite using this tool of the demise of bound books)… The time stamp will report 8:00 am something. The reality: it’s 5:00 am something (we are on vacation on the west coast). I woke up hours ago stressing, as usual. My memory is long gone.

  • Claire says:

    I think that’s the root of my problem too, Sally. In fact, I just read in a magazine that anxiety can completely cause memory loss. Combine it with insomnia, and it’s a double threat.

  • My mom is exactly the same way; she can hear the same joke a hundred times and won’t remember the punchline. She also has no ability to recall whether she has seen a film before, something that I have inherited from her. I don’t know if it has to do with sleep cycles, she’s a pediatrician who will operate on very little sleep and I confess I don’t get the doctor-recommended 8.4 hours/night (not that I know anyone who does), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did have something to do with memory/attention being affected by lack of sleep.

  • Claire says:

    Every day my ten-year-old says “You have the worst memory, Mom.” And every day I agree with him.

  • Dan says:

    Claire, I stumbled upon this page and said OMG, there is someone else like me, can’t remember a lick of gradeschool or highschool and very little of college. So much I can remember that it actually scares me. If I post here twice for the same reason, please forgive me, its not intentional. Maybe, Claire we will meet for the first time several time throughout our lives.

  • Anonymous says:

    i was like this, until diagnosed with ADD, I’m 50 and a dose of ritalin a day helps to form my memories, becauuse they are not being forgotten before they are remembered.

  • Claire says:

    That is fascinating! I’ll have to ask my doctor about that.

  • Kathy Crage says:

    You are not alone, I have no memory of my childhood, my teen years, 23 years of marriage and a child…it goes on and on. I have always thought that I do not store all of these events because they are in the past why clutter up my memory bank. I am 60 now and I have stopped worrying about it. Life will go on and I will not remember the good or the bad just the present and that is not a bad thing, Kathy

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