I forgot my mother’s birthday.
Actually, I remembered her birthday on at least three different occasions that day. Each time I said to myself, “I need to remember to call my mother today.” But then I never did remember to call. So I remembered her birthday, but I didn’t remember to call her on her birthday. Which amounts to the the same thing.
I remembered again two days later, just after I’d gotten into bed and, since it was late, determined to call in the morning. Then, in the morning I forgot to call again. Later in the afternoon I remembered and finally called.
Forgetting is easy. Remembering is hard.
On the evenings my wife and I watch the evening news there is almost always an ad for a new pill made from a chemical in jellyfish that’s supposed to help with memory. We can remember that there is a pill for memory advertised on the TV, and that it’s made from jellyfish.
(Or maybe it’s made from a chemical that they discovered in jellyfish, but they make it in a lab. I don’t remember. Where exactly the miraculous memory chemical comes from isn’t clear to me. Just that it has to do with jellyfish.)
Every time we see the commercial we tell each other, “We need to get that next time we’re at the store.” But we never remember it while we’re at the store. We can’t remember 15 minutes after having seen the commercial to put it on the shopping list. Let alone what it’s called. “You know, the jellyfish memory pills,” we say.
It seems like the jellyfish pills aren’t the first thing to come along with the claim to help memory. It might have been ginkgo biloba. Or any number of other herbal remedies. Before that it was snake oil.
Not to mention all the note-taking systems, both paper and electronic, on the market. When I was younger, I had a terrible time remembering appointments. I bought myself the Franklin Planner System (Later the Franklin Covey Planner System. I don’t know if it’s still even on the market. It probably is. You can look it up.) I can remember that it was fabulous. What I could never remember was to take it with me in the morning or to look at it regularly enough during the day to have it make any difference.
Now I have an iPod touch. I can remember to take the iPod with me because I’m a screen addict. It beeps at me when I need to look at it. It beeped at me on the morning of my mother’s birthday. That was one of the three occasions that day when I remembered. What I should have had it do was to call my mother as it was beeping at me.
With so many cures and other aids for forgetfulness on the market I’m sure I’m not alone in my forgetfulness. It’s at least common enough that venture capitalists invest in for jellyfish pills. (It was probably on an episode of Shark Tank.)
All the jellyfish pills and planner systems and electronic reminders are the tell-tale signs of how difficult and valuable remembrance is. It feels bad to have forgotten.
Remembrance is at a premium because it feels even worse to be forgotten than to forget.
It’s easy for me to wallow in how much I suck when I forget something important to someone else. But it’s really not about me. It’s about someone else. It’s about missing the chance to give someone else the gift of remembrance.
My mother called back later that afternoon. We had a good talk. She said she felt as good as when she was 20. Except she her balance wasn’t quite what it used to be. She was going to try riding her bike to test it out.
I hope she remembers to wear a helmet.