• Carmen Marie Fabio

Like a sieve


I can tell you what I was wearing six years ago at a job interview or what the weather was like on the day I adopted my last dog but I have trouble remembering what I had for dinner last night. And though I take constant steps to mitigate my short-term memory loss, which grows ever worse as I get older, I often don’t remember what the memory prompts stand for.

“Why did I write an ‘M’ on my left hand?” I asked the publisher the other day, stymied as I stared at the blue ink smear. “It must’ve been important…”

I used to have a boss that would write herself notes and staple them to the handle of her purse. Primitive, but likely more effective than the forgotten letter that sits just above my left thumb. I used to write the reminders on my left palm before promptly forgetting about them and then transferring the ink to my face as I leaned my chin on my palm. People laughing at you is a great way to learn (and retain) a lesson.

A few years ago, I forgot to pick up my then 8-year-old son at elementary school, a scenario right out of a Simpsons episode. He says he forgave me.

My eldest has no memory of bringing home a Chinese exchange student for lunch one Saturday, a lovely girl who asked nonstop questions about our Canadian lives and insisted on helping me prepare all the food for the barbecue.

“Who?” asked my son a year later when I asked if she was back for another semester.

“The exchange student,” I prompted. “Her name was Sunny. You taught her how to fish.”

He stared at me blankly.

“She was wearing grey Toms,” I continued, my voice getting louder as if yelling would jog his brain. “I promised I would cook her spaghetti and meatballs next time! You’re too young to just lose an entire exchange student!!”

To this day, he has no idea who I’m talking about.

My favourite memory lapse, if there’s such a thing, is when we threw a birthday party for a good friend of ours then realized we forgot to invite him.

The guests were all at our house, drinks and snacks in hand, until enough people asked us, “Where’s Carlo?” that my husband and I looked at each other in horror. I quickly called him, woke him up, and said, “Get over here – now.” Bless his heart, he was showered, dressed, and there within the hour.

As bad as – or worse than – forgetting is the sudden gut-wrench that accompanies the realization that you’ve forgotten something and the physical feeling is in direct proportion to the importance of the event.

And so it was this week as my first-born hit his milestone 20th birthday, meaning I can no longer say I have three teenagers. Though we celebrated on the weekend, the actual day was March 13. It didn’t fall on a Friday this year – as it did the year he was born, under a full moon – it fell on a grey, wet, snowy Tuesday, as we hustled through our morning routine to make a fire, make breakfast, take care of the dogs, get two of the kids to Cegep on time for early morning classes, bye, love you, have a good day, etc. It was only when I finally arrived at the office that I realized I hadn’t wished him a happy birthday.

“I’m so, so sorry,” I told him later that day, after I’d already sent a guilt-ridden text punctuated with emojis.

“It’s okay,” he told me. “I forgot all about it.”