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Photos [Jul. 1st, 2010|12:03 am]
dalekboy
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As I aged, my visual memory, which used to be pretty good, started to fade. Then I had my stroke, and it took me a while to realise that my visual memory had virtually vanished.

See, the way I used to remember people, things and events was as images in my head. Jocko used to tell people how I'd have a pile of unmarked video tapes, and then would go through them and pick out the exact tape I needed. To him it was identical to all the others, to me it was obviously the right tape.

Whenever I took a tape out of the VCR, I'd glance at where the tape was on the spool. Then I'd put it down with the other tapes. When I needed to find it again, I knew which pile I'd placed it in, and had a strong visual record of when I'd moved things about over time, and so made allowances for that. Then I just went to wherever the pile of tapes had migrated to and looked for the tape that was wound on to the point I'd previously noted. The difference between one tape and another might only be a millimetre, but it was enough for me to know that I had the right tape. Occasionally I got it wrong, but it was pretty rare.

I remember freaking out a mate when we'd gone back to my place to get the opening ceremony tape that I'd left behind. I'd loaned the con my VCRs, so I had to use the above method to locate the tape. Me pulling a lone blank tape out of a pile of blank tapes and telling him that was the one really had him worried. He wanted me to grab more, I didn't. Needless to say, it was the right tape.

I give the above examples not so much to big note myself, but to clarify what I feel I've lost.

I can't tell you what Sharon looks like. Oh, I can do it in a basic sense, I can describe her as tall and buxom, having long grey/black hair, but beyond that, if I was asked to describe her to a police sketch artist, I couldn't do it. I don't have that visual memory available any more. She literally just walked out the room, and I can't picture her face.

I can't remember what Lex looks like. I can't remember what my dad looked like or what his tattoos looked like. I can't remember my friends, or my lovers. And it guts me, because for so much of my life I worked from the images in my mind.

Now I don't have that, instead I have the knowledge. And that's not bad, but it's also not right, not to me.

It doesn't matter that I can remember details of things we've done, can remember mad adventures, remember how I felt, because I can't see the pictures of those things any more and, for me, mental pictures are how I'm supposed to remember the world.

It's one of the reasons I like taking photos of people. It lets me see them again. And that, combined with the other knowledge, gets me a memory closer to the way I used to remember the world. Of course I need to overcome my shyness at asking to take photos of people, but sheer desperation is getting me there, slowly.

One of the nice things about the last few weeks - We've had people here visiting and taking photos, some of which are photos of me with Lex. I'm usually the guy behind the camera, so it's really nice to have some images I can look at that show my child interacting with me, because as extra hard as I try to hold onto that stuff, it slips away like all the rest.

While I don't often comment, it's also why I like when people post photos on their sites, or send me photos via email or the post - I get to see them again.

Hanging with my my friend tonight, all I could think of is that when she goes home, the only way I can keep her face in my mind is with photos, and I haven't taken any yet because I had to empty my camera. That's done now, but part of me wishes I'd done it sooner, but then I also have to be careful to make sure I've gotten all the pictures off it before I delete them, otherwise those moments are lost to me forever.

I don't mean this post to sound a bit sad and dour. It's just one of those things that in recent months has weighed more heavily on me than normal, probably because bub number two is on her way, and I can't remember any images from Lex's birth any more. One hung about longer than the rest, but even it's faded now.

While I'm sad about what I've lost, I'm blessed to live in the age of the digital camera, allowing me to take hundreds of pictures to record the world about me, the places I go, and the people I'm doubly blessed to call my friends and family.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ariaflame
2010-06-30 02:17 pm (UTC)
I've never had that good visual memory. Certainly not to the extent you had. Occasionally I can tag a memory for a short time but there are very few things I can keep long term. I've got a mental map though of pretty much every house I've lived in after the age of about 5.

I wonder if there are mental exercises for this sort of thing? Hard as it must be to consider given that it wasn't something you had to work at before.

But I agree with you on the 'yay digital cameras' bit.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-07-01 01:13 am (UTC)
I actually still 'arrange' things in a chaotic way, but now instead of pictures in my head, I have the knowledge. Doesn't work as well, but it means using the floor and every other flat surface as my filing cabinet is still an option, much to Sharon's constant chagrin.

Digital camera have allowed me the freedom to improve as a photographer without forking out a fortune on developing costs.
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[User Picture]From: mireille21
2010-07-01 05:02 am (UTC)
It's one of the things that irritates me about my mother, that she *moves* things. I come along behind her and I see a blank spot on the kitchen bench. I know it wasn't empty before, but now it is and I struggle to remember what was there, really throws me. Same deal for being legally blind which she still hasn't got to understand after all these years. You don't move things on a blind person. I have th skill of being able to move through my house in complete dark with my eyes closed, because for me visibility is on par with just not wearing my glasses. And is why 'cleaning up' and putting my glasses 'away' is just not a done thing. I can find stuff with my eyes closed if it is exactly where I left it, I can't find stuff (or go looking) if I can't see anything!

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[User Picture]From: ariaflame
2010-07-01 05:16 am (UTC)
Even when sight isn't quite so bad cleaning mothers can be irritating. Before I Found Flylady and managed to keep my place reasonably tidy (just don't look in the study) whenever mum came to visit she would keep tidying up the mess. And then I'd spend ages trying to figure where she'd put the thing I needed.
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[User Picture]From: ariaflame
2010-07-01 05:14 am (UTC)
I'm not a brilliant photographer, my hands shake a bit much for that, but digital cameras (especially ones that compensate a bit for the shaking) and not having to develop every photo you take is doing wonders for me increasing the number of shots I take. And it's only via practice that improvement comes.

I always found amusing a bit from one of Barbara Hambley's books where the protagonist was said to locate material from a pile on her desk by the principle of geological stratification (or similar).

My visual memory isn't totally brilliant, though if I concentrate I can get overview visualisations of memories, but can't 'zoom in' on detail. My memory of things via auditory channels is varied. Conversations are not guaranteed to go to long term memory so people asking me to do something are advised to send me an email. But I'm pretty good at remembering tunes, and sometimes lyrics of songs. Though not always artist and title, though that's more often because the radio stations don't link them with the song so much these days.

My desk is also chaos, though I don't know if I could find things on it as much.
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[User Picture]From: transcendancing
2010-06-30 04:40 pm (UTC)
I really understand this and blog heavily as one way of keeping hold of memories and moments that are important to me. *love*
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-07-01 01:13 am (UTC)
Finding the time to blog is difficult now, though that's where twitter comes in handy - jot down a sentence and leave it.
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[User Picture]From: transcendancing
2010-07-01 05:10 am (UTC)
Indeed!
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From: chuckmck1
2010-06-30 08:19 pm (UTC)
I can certainly empathise with your pain at 'losing something', as I can still remember what it was like to have above-average eyesight a decade ago, contrasted with my current 40% vision and no peripherals whatsoever. If it helps, when you see me at Aussiecon4, you can just label me as 'that dickhead' (and I'll be sure to come up and re-introduce myself as such. Pics at reasonable rates). That's what I look like, there, to the left. Dickhead. :)
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-07-01 01:09 am (UTC)
That's the kicker, isn't it? There are lots of people who have always perceived the world the way you and I are now, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when your perceptions of the world previously were better than the norm, stepping back to normal is a major step down to begin with.

I still remember faces when the moment I see them, and one side effect of the stroke was that I now have a memory for names, where I didn't before, so swings and roundabouts.

See, and dickhead doesn't work for me, because I think you're cool. Maybe we can compromise between 'cool' and 'dickhead' and I can just call you 'shrinkage.'
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[User Picture]From: ariaflame
2010-07-01 05:07 am (UTC)
I have one friend who at times has difficulty at recognising faces. Apparently if I wear recognisable distinctive (to me) earrings it helps.

So at least that bit is working for you. I think on the whole I'd prefer to get better at remembering names without having a stroke though.
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From: chuckmck1
2010-07-01 11:39 am (UTC)
Better than 'Mr Flaccid', I s'pose. :) You think I'm cool? You don't get out much, do you?
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From: gutter_monkey
2010-07-01 06:49 am (UTC)
Huh, everyone else reacted to this post with sympathy and empathy, I immediately thought of a bunch of crazy pranks I could play on you now that I have this information

:D
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From: gutter_monkey
2010-07-01 06:50 am (UTC)
Which I won't do, of course
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[User Picture]From: sjkasabi
2010-07-01 11:52 pm (UTC)
Gosh. My visual memory is much like yours used to be. I passed a music exam I hardly studied for once because even though I didn't always recognise the written music (not having gone to many lectures or tutes or anythign that year) I couldn't help but recognise the typeface, because you could take that in at a glance. They did a whole lot of "where is this phrase from?" questions having just photocopied it out of the published version, so I didn't even have to read the music to get the answers right...

Which is to say, I understand your loss, and how huge it is. I'm not sure how I'd cope if I lost that capacity - so many little daily things rely on it, once you start to think about it. All my sympathy, and all my respect for how well you have coped.

And I'd love to see some pics of you and Lex together :)
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[User Picture]From: jocko55
2010-07-05 08:50 am (UTC)

so that is how you did it.

I remember you a couple of times just selecting a tape out of pile of them and it was always the right one. Mystery to me; just one of those things you could do--I have always had to label them (Working in libraries encourage such things), but I am not a visual person, never had a lot of visual memory. I remember as a child being unsure what my mother was wearing if we were out shopping and got separated, yet I could recognise children I had seen at my school. Getting old and finding stuff wearing out in you is a bit of a bugger, but perhaps having experience can compensate. BTW, looking for Psychodaleks illos, as I am dediting a new zine, partly to prove i still can...
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-07-07 07:06 am (UTC)
trying to catch up with about a week and a half worths of LJ, and this was the first post that actually made me feel something, rather than just, yeah, next.
Thanks for writing about stuff that means something to you.
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