Missing Life Chunks

3 dogs

Here, I write about what I can’t remember to write about. I gave it to two friends for their response. One friend loved it and said it reminded her of Shel Silverstein. That’s high praise, but Shel Silverstein usually depresses me. The other friend said it contains clever ideas but is uninteresting because there is no narrative. That’s the point—there is no narrative. And having no narrative to take away from your life is uninteresting. When you have lost memory, you are forced to rely on clever devices to cover up what you don’t know about yourself. You feel like an impostor in your own body. You feel like friends knock at the door expecting to talk to you, and find that you are someone else who has moved in and tied up and gagged their friend in the basement. You have to concentrate on putting on the same disguise that looks like you every time you interact with someone: it’s like owning a closet full of the same outfit and doing nothing all day—all week—but getting dressed. Memory loss is drudgery.

Minor memory loss from having babies resulted in pages torn out of my life, as it does for perhaps everyone who has babies. We all have missing pages, some more than others. I imagine some people are not even particularly bothered by theirs. The few months I was on antibiotics after I came down with Lyme in my central nervous system—chronic Lyme—are blank. The sickest years before and after I received that diagnosis left me not just with missing pages, or a few more lost pieces, but with Missing Life-Chunks.

What are Missing Life-Chunks? They are cross sections of your entire self in space and time, cut down through infinite layers, which you can’t remember. It’s as though someone took a cookie-cutter and plunged it through the center of your book—what would you understand if forty words were missing out of the middle of every page? You would know the settings, all the basic things about the plot and who you and the other characters are, but nothing would quite make sense.

I can’t explain how I lost those four-dimensional pieces of myself or where they went. Calling them Missing Life Chunks comforts me—the name doesn’t sound like I am talking about things that are ethereal or untraceable—Missing Life Chunks sounds like a bag of dog food.

Missing Life Chunks could explain what happened to my marriage. Before the Lyme crept into my central nervous system, I came down with digestive problems and could no longer overindulge in food to indulge affection. Like a dog, I ate only a single food—chicken stew. My husband, still Italian, continued to drink wine and eat pasta at the table while the pain in my stomach floored me into a creature with my head in my dish chasing memories of past meals around with my tongue—slopping them over the rim —losing them.

Calling my soggy memories Missing Life Chunks makes me feel like some of them are still in the bag and Cerberus hasn’t devoured them entirely, yet. I try tell myself my mental landscape is just a big green suburban yard with many years of spring left to it and I have Life Chunks to spare—I can open the kitchen door, toss out a few Chunks, and let my thoughts run after them. I can concentrate on taking them out one at a time and to train my thoughts to retrieve things that have gotten lost. I tell myself that keeping a big bag of Missing Life-Chunks in the kitchen of my raised ranch is wholesome and okay like having a television in the living room is normal and expected. But it is not true–it is not okay with me that my memories are dog food. But it is good to have treats by the television to comfort myself with when I can’t retrieve parts of my story and know how to do nothing but sit and eat my heart out. Right now I am tossing some to you, too—oops, I can’t remember two years of my life so I can’t write about them—here, have a Missing Life Chunk.

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