I have never had a good memory, my short term memory being stronger than any long term memories I could recall. Remembering to lock the door, feed the cat and close the windows before leaving the house is about my limit. Although recently even those simple tasks have evaded me and I have returned from walking the dog only to find the front door still wide open. Given this alarming realisation the task of recording events that happened a life time ago in my book, “Road to Damascus”, was not going to be easy. But I have always liked a challenge and thus was more than up for the job when I finally got down to writing it. I just needed an army of people who’s memories were far more reliable than mine to help fill its pages.
But why write a book about memories you can’t recall yourself? It’s a paradox to be sure and was most likely the reason it took me ten years to get going. I would like to think I was procrastinating rather than just being lazy. Gathering the enthusiasm to sit down in front of a computer screen for months on end banging out coherent sentences (a challenge in itself for a not too literate simpleton whose own schooling was somewhat limited) seemed a trivial concern compared to being reminded of and reliving events that, frankly, I was happy to leave in the backyard of my mind. But in truth that was precisely the reason why I needed to write the book in the first place. I did want to trudge through that backyard, untidy as it was. It might be a cliche, but I needed to make sense of a life that I was still trying to come to terms with. And not only my life.
You see, “Road to Damascus” is about two of us – doubling the task before me. However, my sister Suzan was meticulous about her recollections. She was eleven years old when our story began and thus could be relied upon to provide the background and context as well as practically all the emotional drama. Me, I was just a year old. Researchers tell us that memories don’t start to get formed until the age of about three or four, and then those memories have faded by the time a we have hit seven. Its a phenomenon known as “childhood amnesia”, so any truth telling from my corner of the backyard was doomed from the start. (Memory, Emory University 2014)
Thank goodness for Suzan and the caseload of tapes I returned from Damascus with back in 2000 when she, confined to barracks after a gall bladder operation, told me her side of the story. After years of silence, she had finally found her voice. Now all I needed to do was to find mine.