By Terry Pettee
Originally Published on June 11th, 2018.
Did you ever have a moment of total inspiration when whatever it was you were pondering became perfectly clear and you understood it all?
[Long Pause: I am giving you time to search your memory banks.]
I’m in my seventies. It takes me longer to search my memory banks than younger folks. I suppose it’s because I’ve lived so long my memories are stacked higher and are scattered more throughout my brain than with younger folks.
The brain is one good-sized lumpy organ. You would think having one brain is like doing business with one bank. All your knowledge and memory is stored in one depository just waiting to be retrieved.
It’s not like that at all.
It’s like a national bank with hundreds, maybe thousands of branch offices, only the brain has millions of branch offices, maybe billions – I forget how many actually.
The bank president cannot visit hundreds or thousands of branch offices on a regular basis. I sure don’t have time to visit all my accumulated memories.
My memories are elusive little rascals. In fact, it’s sometimes all I can do to remember where I’ve parked my car in a parking lot.
Except at my local Barnes and Noble. My local Barnes and Noble is senior friendly. There are only three long rows of extensive parking spots so we seniors can stroll along unobtrusively scanning the horizon for a familiar looking vehicle as if we actually know where we are going.
Speaking of Barnes of Noble, they have a mighty cordial staff. They never shake their heads in wonder when I return a book because I’ve already read it. Even when it’s the second return purchase of the same book title.
I guess I’ve gotten off on a rabbit trail.
I originally asked if you ever had an epiphany; a moment of total inspiration. (Epiphany is derived from the Greek, meaning a manifestation of divine insight – I love showing off my amateurish etymological expertise.)
Getting back to my original question, my answer to that question is as follows.
Neither have I. I think I would remember epiphanies so I must not have had any.
I see myself as a “Monday Morning Quarterback” type of thinker. That means I know exactly what to do in any given situation, a good 24 hours too late.
Let me say it another way. I’m slow of thought at times. I tend to figure things out in retrospect not on the spot when it would do me the most good.
Often when I share a memory there is someone who says, “that’s not how I remember it!” or a grandkid asks, “for real papa?” as if my memory is flawed and my veracity is suspect.
I can promise you I never had a moment’s doubt about anything that passed my grandpa’s lips and he could tell some whoppers. But, I guess, times have changed.
Here’s how all these random ramblings or rabbit trails tie together.
My brain is a like bank. It just stores memories, not money and valuables. I am not the bank president. I am a depositor of memories as I journey through life.
When I opened my first ever bank savings account I was given a savings book that showed my deposits and withdrawals. Without that savings book, I had no idea of my cash balance. You could say my savings book was a reminder of past transactions along with the interest I earned on my account. Without that savings book, I was pretty much in the dark about my worldly wealth.
My brain didn’t come with the equivalent of a savings book. A diary or journal might be a rough equivalent but it’s impossible to reduce to writing every life memory.
So, my memories are deposited in my brain cells. The problem with my storage system is it gets harder to retrieve the information I’m looking for as I age. It’s that poor retrieval system that is turning me into a “Monday Morning Quarterback” type of thinker. Many times, I’m best at remembering the finer details long after the conversation is ended.
I’ve had some particular memories that came to mind of late that got me thinking down this rabbit trail. As I think on those memories, more and more come back to me.
I can remember summers long ago sitting on my grandpa’s porch while he told me the recollections of his youth. I need to set the stage. This was before daytime television was worth watching as a kid, before being old enough to play baseball with the bigger kids and certainly long before the current childhood curse of electronics.
Grandpa’s recollections were mostly of farming and baseball. Farming was somewhat interesting but only when it touched on the mule dropping waste products when plowing or riding bareback on a pig through a thicket or tipping over outhouses. But farming was not nearly so interesting a subject as baseball.
Grandpa played or coached baseball from the time he was weaned until his arthritis made walking to the coach’s box an ordeal. Those baseball stories from a hundred years removed from this day and age were more entertaining to me then even today’s daytime cable television with its 1,000-plus channels.
Grandpa’s baseball telling was chucked full of random rambling, and I mean that only in a positive sense. He would start off on a general theme, most likely inspired by the weather conditions or the mention of a town, a person’s name or even a brand name of any consumable common to man – everything reminded grandpa of a baseball story.
Grandpa’s baseball tales were much like my writings. We both randomly ramble – what I call rabbit trails. Rabbit trails are stories within stories, within stories, within stories. Eventually, most times but not always, our telling returns to concluding the original line of thought. I will try to do just that now.
We shared a love of baseball, grandpa and me. More so we just liked being together, grandpa and grandson, scurrying down rabbit trails. I suppose, looking back at it now, it was the journey, not the destination I cherish.
I have my own grandchildren now. It must be this modern age, but I find it is harder and harder to scurry down rabbit trails with my grandkids. So, I look for other ways to make the journey with them. I hope to leave a sweet memory or two with each grandchild. Maybe even a rabbit trail or two.
One thing is sure.
It won’t be for lack of trying.
Terry Pettee is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where his undergraduate study prepared him for a career in secondary education. Prior to attending EMU, he was Editor-In-Chief of the Erie Square Gazette while a student at the St. Clair County Community College. Between his community college and university years he was Marysville Editor of the St. Clair County Independent Press where he was a newspaper reporter and columnist. After a brief teaching stint his life’s journey led him into human resource and industrial relations management; a career spanning four decades. Now retired, Terry writes both Christian value based fiction and non-fiction for his own amusement, which is babble-speak for saying he has only a single published book to his credit.
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