Saturday, March 17, 2012

Remember When.... What???

After almost 39 years of marriage, and countless shared experiences with my DBF (Dear Best Friend), it is sometimes kind of odd when we are recounting a shared experience that we don't have the same memory - quite.  It's not that one of us becomes the hero, and the other the goat or anything like that (I do love the Charlie Brown supplied metaphor), but we just remember it differently.  There are a lot of memories that we have that we agree in detail on, but it is these other ones that have interested me in a quiet way for some time.

For instance:  We were remembering a short segment in our first trip to Lake Powell.  My Dad rented a 51 foot houseboat, and a ski boat.  The crew was  a combined group consisting of our family, and my sister's family.  This was our first time at LP, and it seemed like a pretty big boat.  We cast off and motored out from Hall's crossing, and headed down channel for 'Iceberg Canyon'.

If you haven't been to LP, you should know that the lake level varies a lot with in each season, as well as from year to year.  The lake is never really the same, and the wonderful little cove that you had such a great time at last time might be either underwater or a quarter of a mile inland and 75 vertical feet above you.  It's never the same, and the rocks that you use for a land mark on one trip might be underwater next time and damage your prop.  When we went the lake was very high, and the water was deep and still in Iceberg Canyon.  We had a really great time, but my sister had a really terrible time, and Annie was recounting the trip and mentioned that she thought it started when Dottie ran the boat into the trees.  I remember the same scene - and this part we agree on - my Dad wanting to get a picture of Dottie driving the boat....he is getting the camera ready, always with great deliberation, Dottie turning around to pose for a couple of pictures - never just one with Grandpa.  Annie remembers the boat heading for semi-submerged trees and the grinding, scraping  as the boat moved over them.  I remember a big patch of water turning from green to yellow-green, indicating a big underwater rock.  We both remember Dottie freaking out a little when that happened.  It was pretty exciting.  But so much detail in our memories, and yet so much difference. In truth, there might have been submerged trees and a submerged block of rock, at LP it could happen.  We might have both just focused on a different part of the scene.  Still our memories are different.  You have all probably had a similar experience.  Sometimes you will recount a memory that you had in common with someone a very long time ago, and there will be significant differences in the two memories, sometimes it is hard to believe that you are both recounting the same experience.  Annie and her dad had an experience where she remembers him saying one thing, and he was totally convienced that he had not said it, and would never have said it..... and of such different memories are conflicts sometimes born.  I think this has happened to us all at one time or another. and so when I read this article about the chemical aspects of memory, I found that it supplied missing pieces for several puzzles.

Chemical Memory:
You might want to go to the link and read the whole article, but I'm going to quote a few paragraphs that I found to be the meat of the article:

“Every memory begins as a changed set of connections among cells in the brain. If you happen to remember this moment—the content of this sentence—it’s because a network of neurons has been altered, woven more tightly together within a vast electrical fabric. This linkage is literal: For a memory to exist, these scattered cells must become more sensitive to the activity of the others, so that if one cell fires, the rest of the circuit lights up as well.
Scientists refer to this process as long-term potentiation, and it involves an intricate cascade of gene activations and protein synthesis that makes it easier for these neurons to pass along their electrical excitement. Sometimes this requires the addition of new receptors at the dendritic end of a neuron, or an increase in the release of the chemical neurotransmitters that nerve cells use to communicate. Neurons will actually sprout new ion channels along their length, allowing them to generate more voltage. Collectively this creation of long-term potentiation is called the consolidation phase, when the circuit of cells representing a memory is first linked together.
Regardless of the molecular details, it’s clear that even minor memories require major work. The past has to be wired into your hardware. . . .”
This is so interesting to me and explains a lot of things.  I was home teaching the other night.  The wife recounted that she had just had an MRI to determine if her multiple sclorosis (MS) was progressing - if the leisions in her brain were getting bigger.  I knew she had MS, and knew that she had a lot of memory problems, but when you think of a disease that is eating up you brain, and that all of your earthly memories are tied up chemically in that tissue, it is a wonder that she remembers anything at all.  Ditto for people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.

I have a friend who had an aneurysm in the center of his brain and had a massive post operative stroke due to blood clots who lost the ability to talk, write, and walk, but remembered all of his engineering knowledge and expertise.  He has since recovered a lot of his ability to talk and walk, and possibly even to write some, but not at the levels that he had attained before the stroke.

Forgetful Pill:

This gets even more interesting.  Although this link is primarily about erasing horrible events from memory, it brings up a very interesting idea.  Memories aren't static.  In order to keep track of what is important, and what isn't, our brains will recall, and then rewrite the memory, somewhat like a computer does to a file that is 'saved as'.  This article posits that changes can creep into memories of a given event and that the memories will change over time. (see Memory Consolidation ) This is what undoubtedly happened to the memory of the event that Annie and her Dad had a difference of opinion on.  Since she had told me about the conversation, and in my memory, her version did not change at all, I'm kind of on her side of the discussion.  There are a lot of these little remembrances that come up in life.

Well that is about all.  What can we take from this?  When we have different memories about the same event we don't have to conclude that the other person is either losing it, or even worse, fibbing.  We might both be a little wrong.  I know I have forgotten a ton of things, and sometimes am surprised by the amount of loss when I come upon an old letter or journal entry that I made. comes back, but without the help of the written word it would have been gone forever.

I guess that scrap booking has some scientific justification now..... get those memories down on paper.  Keeping a journal probably takes on a little bit more importance as well.  Keep a scrap book, keep a journal, write a blog, put notes in you PAF.  The memories that we hold dear are more fragile than we know.  The feelings, experiences, beliefs and testimonies that we hold need to be recorded in some way if we want to pass them on to those who will only know us (not as the interesting, daring, and young people that we remain in our minds) as tired, passe, people with aches and pains.  I know that I treasure the family histories that have been written about both Annie's and my families, and especially my Dad's history.  There is a lot we can share that can give insight to our children and grand children. It's nice to have the date and time, but I know that Annie wishes there was more detail in her Grandma's journal about here birth :  "Lorene had a baby girl".

Time for me to get busy.  I've just had this on my mind for a week or so, and thought I had better get it posted before I forget.    :)