Around the Bend: Living in memory

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It was 1974 and I was in a downtown Boston ice cream parlour struggling to choose a flavor. To my right, I heard some chuckling. It was a college housemate and he said that the knew it was me because I couldn’t make up my mind. It stung a bit, but given Jon’s jovial, given Jon’s jovial, let’s-not-take-anything-seriously nature, I had to go with his amusement.

That was not a pivotal moment in my life, but it definitely served as a motivator over the years as I evolved. Today I am a sure, even abrupt at times, decision-maker. Twenty years after that incident, I communicated with Jon. He had no recollection of seeing me that day or his comment. He also made sure to declare that he’d become a much more purposeful guy.

What we remember, what we forget. In a reunion with a friend from long ago, he recalled a discussion we had about the value of being connected to a church. I strongly supported that idea; he scoffed. All those years later he, with family, had found church to be a pillar in his life. I had no recollection of my cogent message.

Recently, I was at a gathering where I met up with a guy I had met by a campfire in Nova Scotia in 1976. He was a hockey player on the college team and I, an awestruck, backward sports reporter. Meeting up with him was a vivid experience. He, of course, did not recall it, but was so astonished that he asked me to repeat the story three times! Forty-five years later I felt like a pal.

There is a vast network of people out there who recall things we have said or done. Funny , touching, empathetic, sarcastic, angry things. It can be a bit unsettling. I’ve realized that combined, all those people know more about ourselves, excluding internal dialogues, than we do. The ultimate biography would be a mosaic of all those
memories. What a read that would be! It’s humbling to realize that we may have influenced positively or even disgraced ourselves on this journey and never knew it.

So you may take comfort or discomfort that today someone is remembering you with a rueful pause, a dinner table anecdote, or a smile on the way to work. We are remembered in ways we may never know.

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