Memory

Memory; as, quicksilver, unintelligible, hypnotic, intoxicating.

I remember, it was likely 1993, in a garden in Dundee.

A young woman said hello;

It’s Pxxx; how are you?

My expression blank; puzzled.

It appears that Pxxx and I were once classmates in primary school; that would have been in the early 1980’s. 13 years before.

I had no recollection of Pxxx. She didn’t look familiar. I couldn’t place her name. Nada.

I guess, had I been a different person, I would have pretended to know her, perhaps talked about the good old days, running around playgrounds with grey shorts and anorak. Instead, I said, Sorry, I don’t know you.

After a while, she walked-off.

I had a similar experience today, but, worse.

I met someone I knew, someone I had talked with maybe three or four years ago, and, I didn’t recognise them at all.

The person I met was so ill, had so deteriorated, physically, that I was unable to recognise them, even after we spoke; walking away, I wasn’t certain whether they weren’t someone else;

To compound this lack of recognition; when I first approached, I smiled – something I do frequently at work; smiling at people I do not know. Some smile-back, others less-so.

This person returned my smile times-ten.

My lack of recognition confused me; I returned a so-so smile and went on my way, later, I spoke with them.

I still did not recognise them. Now, I realise, I am pained to think, that they recognised me, but then, they saw that I had not remembered them, and they, insightfully, continued the ruse; they didn’t challenge my lack of recognition, they accepted it, as I imagine they have experienced before with others who were unable to see, for whatever reason.

I could not remember the classmate, nor the friend, yet, when I look back at moments of my past, some are frozen in time.

So many of those I have known then never seen again, from my childhood, my youth, adolescence; are still, in moments in time, their images hanging in perpetuity. They do not grow old, just as the soldiers, just as the film-stars and icons.

And I, who spend so much of my time surrounded by people whose memories have faded, who have lost the last 10 or 20 or 40 years of their lives, who exist in a vacuum of the 40’s and 50’s.

Perhaps my fallibility explains the affinity. Perhaps the recognition that I am no better or worse, no different to them, is what maintains me, is what enables me to continue like this.

In a moment, we all exist in moments. Bubbles of time. Perhaps.

And, this realisation gives me an impression of my place in the tableau;

I often talk of person-centred care; it forms the centre of much of my work, yet, when I unravel the meaning, when I unlock, and, look deeper, the realisation becomes more apparent – it is the awareness that this form of care is only possible when I do not just see the person, even, see them as my mother or father, but, as me.

When I see that the old woman who has fallen could be me, the young man with pneumonia, those with confusion, hospital acquired harm and disability, depression, anxiety, organ failure, deterioration and degradation could be me, that is when I can begin to provide more meaningful care.

It stops being us and them and transforms into us and we. Me. I might be the person that is forgotten, who a friend or colleague fails to recognise. It could be me. We must maintain this awareness to facilitate a balance. To ensure our humanness.

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