Monday, June 29, 2015

Making Memories

When I was a child, I remember my mother telling me that when people are old, all they have is their memories. She explained that the elderly may lose their short-term memories, but recollections of their younger days remain. As with most advice I heard from my mother, I brushed this off. After all, old age was so far in the future I could not imagine it. As I now know, like most people, I was completely disconnected from my future self.

At one of my kids' graduation ceremonies in Japan, the speaker advised the students on how to make important choices in life. He said, "Choose the thing that you will least regret." I had never really looked at decisions in the light of how I would feel about them afterwards looking back.

The importance of memories is a common theme of Japanese speeches, with declarations at the start of events like "Let's make good memories today!" being customary. (Could this emphasis on making memories be one reason why Japanese are world-famous for their penchant for photo-taking?)

My mother died in middle-age and thus her life was too short for her to experience being elderly and the fulfillment of her words of advice, but now that I am old, I can see their wisdom. It is all-too-easy for me to relive with deep remorse the horrors of those wasted years and especially the harsh corporal punishment that was meted out on my children which I did not scream against, all because I wanted to believe my own fairy-dust dreams of a happy family life. We cannot undo the past.

Now, I feel obliged to echo my mother's words to young people - be careful of the memories you are making each day. People move on, places change, but your memories (and their confabulations) remain with you.

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