Tag Archives: crossword puzzle

Like the corners of my mind

Actress Marilu Henner has been getting a lot of air time lately for a rare skill—some are calling it a diagnosis—known as Superior Autobiographical Memory. Henner is one of only six people in the world who are confirmed to have this gift.

She has talked about her gift for years and has recently written a book about it. The book is due out this Spring.

Henner appeared on the Today show yesterday, and maybe some other programs, in follow up to a more in-depth piece that ran on 60 Minutes last month.

I was struck in a deeply personal way upon hearing both of these accounts. I may not have Superior Autobiographical Memory, but I dare say I have something similar. Let’s call mine Excellent Autobiographical Memory. My friends tease me about the details I remember about specific days of specific years—what happened when, what day of the week an occasion fell on, what I was wearing, what song topped the charts and what was going on in the world.

The autobiographical part might seem a bit ego-centric but, as Henner does, I also recall details about other people, conversations we had long ago, what they were wearing (including in many cases, a fragrance) and, often, something about music. I can hear almost any popular song dating back to 1960 and tell you the year it came out. This isn’t superior, maybe not even excellent. But it is my thing.

I don’t know about people with Superior Autobiographical Memory, but I know the birthdays of all my friends and family, without having them written down anywhere. I know my credit card numbers and expiration dates by heart (too much online shopping perhaps?). I even remember the phone number we had when I was six (CL6-2808).

In this blog, I have shared a number of childhood memories that my family members barely remember. Often the memory is as clear as the day it happened, though it’s my memory, and not always 100 percent historically accurate. Usually I’m pretty close.

This is not to say that I have a great memory. I’ve been known to put my car keys in the medicine cabinet. I can be in mid-sentence and forget the simplest of nouns. (Humorist Dave Barry claims the nouns are the first to go.) The day before yesterday, I started out for Jazzercise and ended up at the grocery store on autopilot. Sadly, the names of rivers, mountain ranges, poets and playwrights appearing in crossword puzzles will forever elude me.

Yesterday I wrote about how dancing is considered to have a positive impact on memory. I’m dancing like crazy to keep my wallet out of the refrigerator, while my life’s DVD plays in my hotwired head.

Now where did I leave that crossword puzzle?


Filed under Family and Friends, Health, Movies, Television and Radio, Music

Last words

Is anyone else a creature of habit when it comes to reading the newspaper?  I don’t mean that you read it but, rather, how you read it.

I’ve been reading The Washington Post every day for 27 years and still read it in print.  First the Business Section, then Metro, followed by the main section and, for dessert, Style.  On Tuesdays, the Health section comes first; Wednesdays it’s Food.  The Crossword page gets torn out, folded in quarters and filed chronologically in a bedside folder for later enjoyment. 

Recently, when honey they shrunk my paper, Business was folded into the main section.  And it just isn’t the same.

During my years as a corporate lobbyist, the Business section was everything.  All stories high tech and financial, where I focused, were to be devoured and responded to as part of a day’s work.  That’s why it still comes first–old habits die hard.  Mondays were especially fun in those days, when the announcements ran—and still do—about major players changing jobs around town.  It used to be that I knew about 75 percent of the movers and shakers whose names and job changes appeared in this feature.

These days, I recognize more names in the obituaries than I do in Washington Business.

I’m not  kidding.   At least once a week, I see a familiar name or face in the obits.

When I started reading the death section years ago, my parents (Mom lives out of town; Dad travels a lot) appreciated my letting them know when a family friend or neighbor had died.  More and more, my own contemporaries are making appearances in the back of the Metro section.

But even when they aren’t my acquaintances, I have come to really enjoy reading obituaries.  This might sound twisted, but I also enjoy attending funerals.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I grieve the losses of my loved ones as deeply as anyone.  But I appreciate the words that are written and spoken, and the music played, when they pass.

It is hard to sum up one’s life in mere words.  The fact is, the words that are chosen, and they way they are put together in final tribute, are an art.

To me, the most interesting obituaries typically include an unusual profession coupled with an odd or obscure hobby, musical talent or second language.  While the heading might read “Church Member,” we may learn that the deceased also made a mean pound cake or could whistle Bach’s Fugue in G Minor.

It’s hard, when reading the obits, not to wonder what will be written about oneself after passing.  It makes me approach my life a little more conscious of what might be said about me when I’m gone.

Chances are, when I go, I’ll leave my own write-up behind.


Filed under Family and Friends, Music, News, Reading