It’s okay that you’re not always going to be there. That’s nothing to feel bad about.
Sure, it feels like some grand betrayal to decency that you had to write a paper for school, or that you were busy at work. You start negotiating your time around the key moments, and that’s okay. The great tragedy is not that you couldn’t, say, make it to your aunt’s birthday–you remembered, and that counts for a lot. She couldn’t. Since dementia took hold of her, she hasn’t made it to her own cake cutting.
You just have more memory to feel awful about it.
It’s okay to mourn as if the person is already gone. Except for short, often unpredictable moments of clarity that you will undoubtedly miss, there’s no coming back from this. It’s okay to ask, “Do you remember me?” as if you were the MacGuffin, the key to releasing a prisoner of faulty gray matter. It’s actually easier if it was probably unlikely that they would have known you to begin with: at least you can’t be forgotten. You can remember for both of you. You’ve already been doing this your whole life.
You can, for example, remember the best of Tom Seaver whenever you’d like. The arrival in ’67, the triumph in ’69, the 19-strikeout game, the 300th win on Phil Rizzuto Day, 98.8% of the vote, a record for a very long time. Imagine everything you’ve already forgotten; you can go rediscover those things. Though you may choose, if you wish, to forget the Yankee broadcaster, definitely the Midnight Massacre. Celebrate that you have that choice.
You cannot choose not to be forgotten. And for some 50 million people, they cannot choose not to be forgotten by themselves. You could, like me, take solace in the fact that the sun will get too big one day, and beyond that, the entirety of the universe will probably contract and collapse, and “matter” will be a scientific term that no one will be around to define. Which is to say, The Great Forgetting will forget us all. We’re all just a little early to the party.
Of course, at least until then, you should probably enjoy yourself and others, what others have done for you, and what others mean to you. And you should remember for as long as you can remember, and learn for as long as you can learn, and celebrate for as long as you can celebrate. And you should write, and fill box scores and record books and strive to become legendary, and you should aspire to be remembered well by people who aren’t you, in times that aren’t yours. You should remember others, and you should do so happily and not regret where you couldn’t be, or what they couldn’t see. You should, in short, remember guys like Tom Terrific and try to be a Terrific Tom.
Eventually, inevitably, we will all be strangers to ourselves. Eventually, inevitably, we will not be there. But that’s nothing to feel bad about.
Khurram Kalim is a senior writer for Bronx to Bushville.