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Tue, March 19

Barnes: Are memories our most important possession?

What do each of us possess that may well be our most important possession?

How about our memories?

Because of mine, I consider myself to be one of the richest men alive.

Yet, I believe that many of us underestimate their importance and how much they influence our daily lives.

You might want to take a few minutes and reflect on this point.

Oscar Wilde once referred to memories as the diary each of us carries around with us.

For the past 50 years or so, I’ve developed the habit of almost daily writing a few memories down; ones I don’t want to forget. I use picture albums to rediscover events and old friends. It is always astonishing what just one old photograph can call forth. A few of them have gone into stories or columns.

Of course, there are times when I don’t want to make the journey back. I’m no more of a masochist than you are. My memory, like yours, is a personal history. We’ve all made mistakes, exercised poor judgment and made erratic behavioral choices. The best we likely have accomplished is to have learned from these decisions and put them behind us.

I am discovering—at my advanced age—that I am forgetting the names of individuals whom I have known for years. I was sharing this information with an old friend (I forget her name) several days ago and she exclaimed that this was happening to her too. We discussed the frustration we were both facing and the inevitable disappointment of drawing blanks.

But for the most part, my memory is an incredibly positive asset. I can’t imagine how difficult decisions and judgments would be if we lived without the benefit of them. Our lives would be severely restricted and unsuccessful if we couldn’t tap into memories.

Many of us old-timers have suffered personal losses. The loss of a spouse is part of my recent history and may be part of yours. I devote considerable time reflecting on her and our life together. The memories are easily retrieved and are vital to sustaining my mental health. She is—and will always be—an essential, beautiful and cherished part of my life.

For me, the older I become the more pleasure and affirmation I experience in traveling back into my past. When I’m “there” I inevitably spend considerable time looking around. I’ve always enjoyed sightseeing. I literally become engrossed in examining where I am and what I am seeing.

But regrettably, the trips are becoming shorter and the ability to maintain my attention span is diminishing.

And that reminds me of what a humorist once said about concentration: “I sometimes worry about my short attention span, but not for long.”


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