Memory, remember the time

Where are my keys

Did you ever lose your keys? This happened to me just last week.

“I just had them in my hand and I can’t remember where I put them. I look around the house, in my pockets and on the table. No keys. Did they fall on the floor? It’s 7 am and I have to leave for work but without my keys I can’t drive my car. At least I remember where my car is…Last week I came out of a store and I looked in the parking lot and could not remember where I parked my car.”

I’m 61; am I losing my memory? Maybe, or is it just my information retrieval system. So, memory is the process by which we receive and store information and then retrieve or recall information.

Actually, I had put my keys in my black jacket which was hanging on the coat hook in my home office. When I put my keys in the jacket pocket, did I encode (register) this information? Why could I not remember where I put them? I put the keys in my coat pocket as part of a process without thinking specifically about the action of putting my keys in my pocket. Therefore, in order to retrieve the information of the location of my keys, I had to retrieve the process. I thought about taking my keys out of the car ignition and then opening the front door with  my keys and then putting them in my jacket pocket. How we accept information helps to give us an idea of how we recall or retrieve information.

Other memories are much more complicated and call for different retrieval strategies.  If you think about using Google to gather information on your computer, you usually need to ask the right question or a related question in order to get the correct information.

The same is true for retrieving information from our brains. The information is almost always in storage. Is it a name, an event, a number, a time, a feeling? It is the questions we ask ourselves that will enable us to remember. Location can be an important trigger. If you think about someone you love or loved, try to remember your first kiss. Here are some questions that might help you retrieve this information. Where and when did the kiss take place? What were the circumstances? Was the person receptive? How long was the first kiss? Was it followed by more kisses? How did you feel?

I was with my oldest son and his family watching a video of them at the beach in 2008.  Nina Simone, my granddaughter, who is now 7, was 3 at the time. Her grandfather Chris who was in the video passed away in 2010. In thinking about Nina’s memory of her grandfather, I asked her what it felt like when her legs were buried in the sand.  She giggled and said, cold.  If she can remember that feeling and the time at the beach, she will have an easier time remembering her grandfather.

While we have technology assistance in collecting, storing and retrieving information, our own memories are an essential part of our identity and humanity.  Hold on to those memories!

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