Memory is such an odd thing. Ask me to recall something from an open-ended question such as, "What was the last book that you read," and I'll struggle. Plop me in front of a television and turn on a program that I have seen but once and not necessarily recently, and it will be familiar to me. This past Christmas season, we were listening to Stuart McClean on The Vinyl Cafe on the radio. It was a program that I had heard only once twelve months previously, yet, as it unfolded, there was some parts that I could predict, even before they happened. (Well, when else would you predict: after something happened?)
There is a doctor in town. He has an unusual name. I taught a fellow with that name more than twenty-five years ago on the other side of the province, so I presume it is he. I can tell you the course and his seat — grade twelve geography, seat one in row five. I have taught thousands of kids and suppose that I forget most, especially names, although I remember his for whatever reason.
Cuppa has a different sort of memory. It will take her a lot longer than me to recognize a program that we have seen previously; sometimes, she remains unconvinced, even at its conclusion. But she tends to recall names really well and who gave what to whom at Christmas and what she had for lunch when we were last at a certain restaurant — seventeen months ago!
However, we all pale in comparison to The Human Calendar who can recall with clarity and detail what she did on many days of her life. Give her a date, and she'll tell you about the weather, what she was doing, and, perhaps, something newsworthy that occurred.
"It's like a running movie that never stops. It's like a split screen. I'll be talking to someone and seeing something else. ... Like we're sitting here talking and ... in my head I'm thinking about something that happened to me in December 1982, Dec. 17, 1982, it was a Friday, I started to work at (a store)."
Oddly enough, she can't remember the function of all five keys on her key chain, and she's not very good at faces, rote memorization, or school. Yet, her ability to remember dates plagues her.
"Some people call me the human calendar while others run out of the room in complete fear," she told researchers. "Most have called it a gift, but I call it a burden. I run my entire life through my head every day and it drives me crazy!!!"
The story appeared in The Toronto Star today. I didn't get a lot of hits when I searched for it on Google News, so it may not yet have spread far and wide.