Father with one of our dogs, from way back when...
"Song is the ultimate structuring device for language." This quote is lifted from Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything, one of three ebooks recently purchased by Leena. I flipped through the first page out of curiosity, drawn by the incongruous title, and by early evening I found myself halfway on page 187. I would have gone on had the battery of the darn iPad not given up. Anyway, the author, Joshua Foer, also clarified that language is the foundation of memory. This is about memory.
In the beginning of Foer's fascinating book about memory -- how it works, its power and effect, its history and future -- he assigns a card, the king of hearts, to Michael Jackson, and Einstein is equivalent to the three of diamonds. I think the flippant title does not do justice to the erudition of the writer, harbinger of unexpected wealth of information and ideas that can and should change the way we think and live. Why? It took Foer more than 300 pages to explain; I can't do it for less. Buy the book.
I'm a Jurassic -- or, to be accurate, Pleistocene -- a creature plagued by dreams that wake me by the dawn's early light. These dreams are made of memories, however disjointed and warped the settings and time frames.
I dream of parents and dear friends departed. I dream of former newspaper colleagues and high school classmates dead and alive. I grieve for the dead because they died so young (young meaning they did not even get to live 50 years in this crazy planet), suddenly taken away either by cancer or heart attacks.
When classmates I have not seen for more than three decades visit by dream, I think, as if in a reunion, how well they did in life, and that I did not fare so badly in comparison: they have more money, in exchange for the staid lifestyle of businesspeople; I, on the other hand, was made to hurdle unconventional loops, at least far from the standard of a Chinese living as a Filipino. I have been leading an outcast's life.
What gets me at this stage is the matter of age. In a reunion I attended about four or five years ago, we bandied the Alzheimer word a lot -- when we failed to recognize each other, when we could not relate to some past incidents, when we forgot old acquaintance and days of auld lang syne. Discussion tended to drift toward betablockers and other preventive medication, healthy diets, poor eyesight, high anxiety, low energy. Nevertheless I left in a magical daze, unexpectedly seeing those good people after so long!
So I wake up in shattered mid-dream again. Again I realize I'm still here, after more than half a century. I feel like a mastodon, out of sync because my mind carries the illusion of youth, gone but not forgotten.
I have already learned to cope with my inescapable age. I used to get distressed when I realize that I'm really old, no kidding. Now I'm comforted by the fact that all my classmates are also not immune to this biological affliction. Some are even older than I am. I miss those who had treated me kindly.
I remember a morning many years ago when at breakfast my father suddenly exclaimed (in Chinese), "I have a white hair in my head; I'm getting old!" We just laughed, my grandmother and my 12-year-old self: my father was just about 40 then, or even younger. He died at age 67 in 1995. Since then he visits me in my dream. In my dreams, dear friends and loved ones meet, and they are always welcome.
Today is Father's Day. I think of my father -- gone but not forgotten, far but not away.