Speak, memory?

May 10th, 2010

I recently realized that for years I have been misremembering something about the day my father died. It’s a detail, a secondary detail, but it was a detail about the day my father moved from being here to being not-here, and it hit me, after all these years, that it is inaccurate. It is as if for years I have associated the day my father died with the crescent moon in the sky only to consult a lunar calendar and discover that on that day the moon was in fact waxing gibbous. 

I don’t know how I came to associate this false detail with that morning, the conflating of two memories over time, probably, but now I am forced to wonder: what else have I misremembered, or forgotten altogether, about that day? And worse, this: what have I misremembered, or forgotten altogether, about my father? Twenty years, my father died twenty years ago this July, twenty years is a long time to hold on to the weather, the phases of the moon, the leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window. It’s a long time to hold on to how he dressed, what he ate for breakfast, the nicknames he gave me, the sound of his voice. I lost that one, the sound of his voice, I lost that already  years ago. Is this my fate, to slowly forget the details? Is this his fate, to fade away into photographs that never change, but don’t tell the whole story, either?

And what of that false memory? The fact is inaccurate, but that I held on to it for so long that I came to believe it was true, that happened. That’s real. It became my detail, and though it does not correspond to the world as it existed that morning, it belongs to the world as it exists now within me; it is inaccurate, yet true. What do we call the space between what happened and the way we remember it? The detail is factually inaccurate, I see now that it must be, but I still believe that some part of it is true.

One Response to “Speak, memory?”

  1. Holding it in my hand at Magpie Days on June 1, 2010 10:14 am

    […] far different from the one that really existed at the time. In light of some of my other memories that have revealed themselves as false, I hold this copy of Thoreau with my school-girl’s writing on the fly-leaf, this piece of my […]

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