Today in My History
Books Read in 2019
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WHERE WERE YOU?
14 June 2019
During the host chat segment of last night's Jeopardy, the first contestant was telling Alex Trebec that the first time he saw color TV was in 1969. His family bought a big TV (19") so they could watch the moon landing...which was then broadcast in black and white.
Trebec said he remembered watching the broadcast and that he was in Germany at the time.
I remember that we had gone to Walt's mother's house to watch the landing with her. Paul was a baby at the time and at the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, he was nursing. I always remember the year because I took pictures of each of the kids with the newspaper headlines of the event, and Paul is a baby.
It got me to thinking about events in my life that are imprinted in my brain and that I can bring up in detail, remembering where I was an what I was doing at the time.
Judy Garland died in 1969, again when Paul was a baby, and I was sitting in our living room nursing him when the phone rang. It was my mother ... laughing ... and asking if I was mourning. I had not yet heard of her death and I resented my mother finding my possible grief over Garland's death funny. But then my mother always had a weird sense of humor.
Probably everyone remember where they heard the news of Kennedy's shooting. I was working in my office at UC Berkeley and had the radio on to some music station when someone ran in and said "the president has been shot!" I immediately turned to a news station and when the word came that he had died, I went across the hall to the billing office and said he was dead. They had a different station on and were angry at me for suggesting he was dead.
I remember leaving the office and seeing the usually bustling campus so still, with people gathered in quiet little clumps. I remember a lot of bits and pieces of that weekend, especially a bunch of us in the car, driving home from breakfast after Mass, listening to the radio and hearing Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald.
My memories of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. are less complete, but I still remember that Walt was in the bathroom in our rented home in Albany (CA) and I was standing over the heater vent right outside, and opened the paper to see the headline. I am somewhat ashamed to remember that my first feeling was fear that there would be an escalation of violence in retribution.
Everyone seems to remember where they were when they heard of John Lennon's death but I don't have a clue and don't remember hearing about it at all.
Other events that didn't make the headlines, but are still imprinted in my memory banks, are things like the death of the wife of the owner of our local grocery store. We had been at Mass and were driving home and I looked over at the store and saw a black wreath hanging there. It was my second touch with death.
My first touch with death is also a vivid memory. Why in the world my grandparents decided to take a 5 year old to a funeral, especially of someone I didn't know, boggles my mind. But I remember standing in the back of the room where the casket was. It was draped in a blanket of gardenias and for years afterwards the smell of gardenias made me sick to my stomach. I didn't go look at the body (though my grandmother asked me if I wanted to), but I could see her nose sticking up out of the casket.
There is the snippet of memory of spending the night at my mother's parents place, sleeping in bed with my mother, getting turned around in bed and not knowing where I was when I woke up.
I remember the first (and only) time I heard my grandfather sing. Still a strong voice from the days when he was a professional, and I remember my grandmother sitting there rolling her eyes because she hated it so much.
I also remember when I discovered classical music and started listening to it rather than popular music. During a social evening at my grandparents, I went into the kitchen and turned on KKHI, the classical station in San Francisco and was listening to it quietly. My grandmother came into the kitchen and said "well, that's nice but you couldn't listen to that all day, could you?"
I vividly remember the horrible night when I came home from taking our German exchange student to the wine country, walking into the house and having Walt tell me that Gilbert had a heart attack...and then the frantic phone calls to everyone to find out how he was doing, and the final call from the guy who rented a room in his house telling me that Gilbert had died. I can still feel the feeling in my stomach when I heard that.
I remember the day before my sister died. We had taken the kids to the park and they were riding on a kiddie train. While they rode, I called my mother to find out how Karen was and was told her fever had gone up to 108. We had known she was not going to live and it was weeks of up and down reports and I stood there at the pay phone crying and screaming inwardly "WHY won't she just DIE???" and then feeling so guilty for feeling that way.
When I remember these sorts of things that can pop into my
head in such amazing detail at a moment's notice, I wonder how they will all
disappear when/if I develop dementia. In truth I had to look up some
blatantly obvious information as I was writing this -- things I should never
have forgotten. This is the first step in going down that dementia
road, I fear...
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This is entry #7022