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Today in My History

2000: Decanting Detergent
2001: Don't Go to Boston; It's Under Construction
2002: Just Call Me the Refrigerator
2003: Poppies and Poopies
2004: The Last Time
2005:  A Lasting Legacy

2006:  Not as Crazy as I Thought
2007: Fun with Photos
2008:  Little Bits of Good News
2009:  It's a Rather Blustery Day
2010:  Strange and Wonderful Things
2011:  Thursday Thirteen


Bitter Hack
Updated: 4/3
"Barrymore"


Books Read in 2012
 Updated: 4/3
"Travels with Alice"


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My 70th Year

 

THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY

8 April 2012

Think of the number of things you do every day that you never have to think about.

Making coffee, for instance.  I find the pitcher that I use to fill the coffee maker.  I take it in my right hand and place it under the spigot in the sink.  With my left hand I turn on the water and wait until it fills.  Then I take it to the stove, put it on the flat griddle.  I open the coffee maker with my left hand, pour the water in. 

Before I close the coffee maker, I take out the part that holds the coffee with my left hand, take it to the laundry room and open the garbage can with my right hand and dump the coffee in it.  Then I return it to the maker add a coffee filter from the drawer under the coffee maker, reach up, get the container of coffee beans from off the refrigerator and take out a scoop of beans, putting the open container on the griddle next to the pitcher.  I put the beans in the coffee grinder and grind them, keeping the motor running while I turn the grinder upside down to get the stray bits of ground coffee into the cup.  I pour the now ground coffee into the coffee filter, close the top of the maker, and (if I remember), press the "on" button.

It's all very routine, actions that have been done so many times they are burned into my brain and I could do it in my sleep. 

Or getting a glass of cold water.  Pick up glass in right hand, put it under the spigot of the water cooler, raise the lever with my left hand until the glass is full, then let it go and I have a nice glass of cold water in my right hand.

We learn most of the things we do every day, some of them in our childhood, some of them as necessity demands later in life.

I put on my shoes and socks the same way I have been doing them all my life.  Right sock first, then right shoe; then left sock, then left shoe.   If I'm wearing sandals, I put on both socks first (first right, then left) and then step into the sandals.

I suspect that if we took a day to become a scientific observer in our own lives we would come up with hundreds of actions that we do every day that we always do in the same way because we have always done them in the same way.   (Ironically, Walt just visited my office to talk about his routine brushing his teeth -- rinse, floss, brush, water pic -- and how discombobulated he becomes if he gets interrupted, unable to remember where in his routine he had been before the interruption...he was unaware that I was writing this entry.)

But there are two basic things that I am never sure of and have not been sure of for many years:  making the sign of the cross and wiping myself after I go to the bathroom, especially if something more substantial than liquid is involved.  Now this is not meant to sound like some avant garde artistic expression designed to cause controversy, like a crucifix in a jar of urine or something like that.  I'm serious.  I don't remember how to make the sign of the cross or how I learned to wipe myself.

Perhaps I should explain.  (Yes, Beverly, that would be a good thing to do about now!)

I had been making the sign of the cross, probably many times a day, all throughout my 12 years of Catholic school, a lifetime of Masses, and lots and lots of rosaries.  The hand goes to the forehead, then to the chest, and then to each shoulder.

In college we met the man who would later become David's godfather.   Andrij is Ukranian and he came to Mass at the Newman Center in Berkeley.  At some point he invited us to attend a Ukranian Orthodox Mass at a church in San Francisco.

You'd never know it was a church.  It was a regular looking house, but the garage had been converted into a small chapel.  The mass was chanted beautifully and we learned how to sing along with the choir on the chorus... Hospody pomiluj...etc.  Eventually we felt perfectly comfortable at the Eastern rite Mass.

But the thing about the Eastern Orthodox church is that when they make the sign of the cross they do it "backwards" (like the English and Australians drive "on the wrong side of the road" -- silly people think their way is the proper way!).  We attended church there once a month for maybe a year and at the end of that time I couldn't remember which sign of the cross was which.  Is it left shoulder/right shoulder?  or is it right shoulder/left shoulder?  I suppose since I rarely have occasion to make the sign of the cross at all these days, it doesn't really matter, but I am aware whenever I do attempt to do it that there is that moment of hesitation after touching my chest--which way am I supposed to go next?

As for my ablutions, it was all a no brainer for most of my life, up until 2003.  In 2003, I had my bike accident and dislocated my shoulder.  As it would have it, it was my left shoulder, my dominant side.  My left arm was immobilized for several weeks and the first time I went to the bathroom after the accident, I didn't know what to do.  Everything had to be relearned with my right hand.  Even after the immobilizer came off and I could use my left hand again, there was a pain threshold reaching too far back that necessitated making adjustments to what I had been doing all my life.

My pain is long since resolved, but I truly never grab a wad of toilet paper in my hand without feeling that I am somehow doing it "wrong," but not remembering what way is "right" any more!

And yes, my friends, these are the kinds of weird thoughts that flit through my head from time to time!

 

PHOTO OF THE DAY

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Salvador Dali's "Persistence of Memory"

 

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