We all own mental file cabinets. They are the place where we store all of the information that we acquire and decide to retain. The longer we live, the more extensive our filing cabinets become. One of the sad and crazy things about our filing system is the older memory files are the most familiar.
One of my favorite stories about recovering a little used item from her filing cabinet was told to me by my daughter, Elizabeth, who lived in Boston while in graduate school in the mid-1990s. “One night, I went to a party in Somerville and somebody at the party brought up the infamous 1978 playoff game where Bucky Dent hit a home run over the Green Monster that gave the Yankees the winning lead.
“Of course, they were all Red Sox fans and they gave me lip about being from New York.
“Yes, I admit, I am a Yankee fan and I watched the game on TV when Bucky Dent crushed your hopes.”
“Some guys challenged my sports credentials. So, I said, okay, how about I give you the name of every Yankees who started that game. They looked at me with awe as I accurately presented the Yankees players beginning with first base.
“As I repeated the team’s roll-call for that game, I had this strange feeling of wondering why I could recall this memory that I hadn’t thought about for almost twenty years and how I retained it. Even so, I didn’t give too much thought to why I had this power of memory. At the time, I was just glad to be able to put those obnoxious Red Socks fans in their place.”
Both fortunately and unfortunately, the number of our filing cabinets grows and grows and senior moments occur with increased frequency. We learn to live with the frustration of losing immediate recall and learn to deal with this issue. One thing becomes obvious, “Don’t try to force it as that will only make it worse.”
Our best bet is to sit back, relax and let whatever that internal process is to work its magic until it can provide us with the correct answer. Of course, we hope it doesn’t happen at 2 am!
My friend, Mike Scott and I refer to this phenomenon as a “Mike Fitzgerald Moment.”
We named it after a chap who used to work for our firm in both the Minneapolis and Dallas offices. We both worked with Mike, but on different projects. Scott and I were riding on the Amtrak Northeast Regional on our way to Washington DC to see the sights and attend a Nationals baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Both of us hit a stone wall trying to recall his name. We went on to talk about many other subjects on the train, at dinner at the game and back at the hotel bar following the game. The next morning, as we were walking to a Metro stop, I blurted out, “His first name was Mike.”
“Fitzgerald,” Scott shouted back at me and we both stopped walking bent over in uncontrollable laughter. We toasted him later on at dinner.
On Mother’s Day, I had a Mike Fitzgerald Moment when I was talking to my son-in-law, Tom Briggs, about oddly named airports. “One of the curious ones is the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.”
But I couldn’t think of that historical entertainer’s name. Twenty minutes later, it came to me. I told Tom the name of the airport and then it once again disappeared from my memory. Rather than look it up which is the easy way out, I let my internal mechanism run with it. Before my memory of Will Rogers returned, I made stops at Chief Justice Earl Warren and the aviator, Wiley Post, (who ironically was flying the airplane when it crashed in Alaska killing himself and Will Rogers.)
Writing this piece should keep Mr. Rogers around for a while but I think I’ll say a little prayer for him that he remains resting in peace while he remains in my consciousness.
My latest happened last Thursday night at bedtime. As I laid down, I thought of the first American general to lead our troops in Viet Nam. I could see his tall and handsome image, his silver hair; but his name, not a clue. I told myself to go to sleep and wait for the morning. As I awoke, I silently demanded, “Who was it?” Without hesitation my mind replied, “Westmoreland, William Westmoreland”
“Say goodnight, Gracie.”
(On the outside looking in will not publish next week and will return on June 8, 2022)