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.