Memory failure

Memory failure

Facebook is both a wonderful and terrible thing. This morning I woke up to the pictures above – a reminder of a very excited little boy.

But we need to talk about the “Memories” capability…

When Mark died it was a way of having someone else to share all the things Ethan did with. It was adult feedback about events and decisions. It was sharing a wry smile over a glass of wine at the end of a very long and relentless day.

It was my lifeline.

Generally speaking its a treasure trove of funny things I’ve sent to my mates (who obviously agree I’m hilarious!), cute pictures of Ethan, tweets and political statements that felt so current and important but I can’t remember anything about now, momentous occasions such as the first swimming lesson, THE BEGINNING OF POTTY TRAINING, the wine at the end of the first day of potty training, The moment when I break and just put pull-ups on him again….you know the sort of thing.

But then every now and again there is a sucker punch to my stomach. It will be a birthday message from Mark, a caption to a photo of my two boys snuggled up together asleep on the sofa, a wedding anniversary, or (a particularly impressive one) the message in which I told all of our far flung family and friends that Mark was being moved to a hospice with no further treatment, or the one 2 days afterwards when I told them all he had died.

So, that was a fun thing to pop up after Facebook says ” we thought you’d like to see this…”

Because I didn’t, not at all, and I won’t like it next year either.

So why stay subscribed, you ask, If it means you end up with PTSD flashbacks while scrolling your newsfeed?

It’s this collective memory thing. I really am so bad at remembering things, and this is a way of accessing this shared memory store of Ethan. Especially during the 2 bad years, when I honestly think trauma has wiped a lot of my memory.

I worry about being the single repository for all the memories of Ethan’s first few years.

I’m hopeless at remembering things like the first word, first step, first bit of food.

The fact that there is video evidence of at least some of these is one of the saving graces of living in the 21st Century. But it’s not sufficient on its own.

And, because I am naturally anxious, I worry that I’ll miss out on telling him something so incredibly important that it will shape either his understanding of his father, or his very personality. Mark was the one with the details. He was the one with the photo on his desk on the back of which was written Ethan’s first word along with the words he was currently using at a certain date.

I think maybe I was so in the thick of the daily whirlwind that is bringing up a child that these things passed me by. Obviously I was excited at the time, but then the details got pushed out to make room for remembering jabs and to order more washing powder.

When you build a partnership, or a marriage, or a family with someone else, you both take on different roles relative to your strengths (and necessity). You don’t both need to be the one who remembers birthdays, or the one who is better at recalling when the first tooth arrived. But when you lose your partner you lose that half of the skill set you’ve developed. You lose that half of the memories. You lose that half of what your family means. And it bothers me. It makes me feel guilty and as if I didn’t care enough to hold these things in my head.

And, to be honest, I’ve only just realised that it may have been because I was the one doing the work. And he was the one being updated with the important news, or coming home and getting the highlights. Generally speaking. When you are so in the thick of it every next thing that happens is your priority. Maybe remembering that will make me feel less guilty… Who knows.

With this baby I periodically feel the pressure to over-compensate and ensure there is detailed record of everything that ever happens. But in reality I have a 7 year old, a house that never stays clean, a washing pile that never gets any smaller, about 3 different jobs, and more than a vague interest in what is actually happening in the world (completely bat-shit crazy though it is). I get the chance to make a quick note of whether or not I’ve taken my prenatal vitamins today, and I can’t imagine that adding an actual moving baby is going to help my time management.

So, Facebook it is…

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