And Odd Form of Memory

My husband Brian and I have very different types of memories. I like to think I am fairly normal: long term and short-term memories like the average person, with occasional lapses more due to my not hearing things, over-commitment, or dyslexia that only make it seem like I forgot something. I write a lot of lists and concentrate on having good habits. I get a lot done for someone my age as I am highly organized. I can keep an entire novel I’m editing in my head simultaneously so I am no mental midget.

But Brian…Brian is in a class all by himself. He only seems to have a long-term memory. Whatever goes into his brain just stays there. This means he recalls long strings of numbers for things like credit cards, replacement part designations, phone numbers from when he was a child–the list is endless. It also means he is selective about what he mentally ingests, especially images. Disturbing scenes and photos stick to his brain like long strings of numbers, so he does not watch a lot of TV or movies, and prefers practical “how-to” videos on YouTube.

Last week we had what was, for him, and eye-opening conversation. He had never even heard or conceived of the concept of a short-term memory. It was alien to him. For Brian, entropy of thought was unthinkable. For the average person it’s the norm unless we study to intentionally put information into our long-term memories. Brian has no problem doing complex math in his head, but this–the fact that parts of other people’s thoughts might have a short half-life and deteriorate? He could not wrap his brain around this. He does have what they call a “working memory” where he can intentionally discard things not pertinent to what he is no longer working on but that’s not the same thing.

We are both 68 years old, and he has had a few lapses in his perfect long-term memory, so as that progresses I will be teaching him how to write things down and remember things like a normal person. But Brian at half-speed, mentally, will still be able to run rings around the average person’s ability to recall things. I’m not too worried about it and, now that he knows I will teach him an alternate system, neither is he.

One thought on “And Odd Form of Memory

  1. I envy that level of recall! Both my short term and long term memory are the equivalent of a goldfish circling a bowl. “Oh, a pretty castle!”

    Memory is such a strange thing. Without it, are we even conscious beings?

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