I’m currently reading Roger Ebert’s newest book, Life Itself: A Memoir, and in the midst of all my thoughts about how difficult it must be for him to cope with his physical problems (he can’t eat, drink, or speak, and can barely walk) I quickly realized something else. His ability to recall names, events — even entire conversations — from a lifetime of memories is almost unbelievable.
He addresses the subject early in the book. He says that he’d always resisted blogging and the like, but when he lost his ability to communicate in other ways he began turning more and more to his keyboard. Along the way, he discovered that he had almost total recall of many of his memories from the past.
Some of his childhood stories are a little reminiscent of those from a favorite of mine, the late Jean Shepherd, whose tales formed the basis for the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story. Like Shepherd (and me), Ebert is a pre-boomer who grew up in small-town middle America, and even though his stories aren’t as drop-dead hilarious as Shepherd’s they still have a humorous tone at times.
As someone who writes a blog based on nostalgia, I wish I had just a fraction of his ability to remember details. Unfortunately, whenever I start rummaging through my memories I stumble onto so many holes that I feel like I’m walking across a giant wedge of Swiss cheese.