Thursday, July 9, 2009

False Memory

I could hardly sleep last night, in anticipation of the possibility of a wonderful discovery today. I had been slogging through boxes and bags of paper for weeks now. My closet had been full of every piece of paper that had come in the mail or from the office in the past fourteen years. I had not let go of anything, who knows why. These papers had accumulated and expanded and grown, until most of my walk in closet was packed and inaccessible ( the mice in the closet had kept me out of there for years, or so I said, or believed). I refused to throw anything out without looking through all the papers. While Eric was gone these past weeks, I sifted through almost a box a night and these past few days I have checked each of the remaining boxes. And finished last night. And found something that I may have been looking for. I had not specifically been looking for anything, I just knew that I did not want to throw anything out without checking first, just in case I found something that I may or may not have lost.

I had been doubting myself for years. Whenever I told Eric the story, he did not appear to believe the details, so I gave up on ever finding what I lost, grieved the loss, but kept hoping I would be lucky someday.

I have one item in my possession that is of great value. Very small and precious. I kept it in a safety deposit box in Salt Lake City until June of 2002, when I moved it and remember putting it in a safe deposit box at the local First Union branch. And forgot about it and believed it to be safe. I checked on it in 2003 and was told that I never had a safe deposit box at the bank, that there was no record of it and if I did not have the paperwork or the key. I insisted, to no avail, and decided not to think about it for a while. I checked again a couple of times over the years and the answer was the same. There was no record of the box. Of course I had no idea where the key was.

I began to doubt my memory. Perhaps it was a false memory. I have a photographic memory, which places me in the vault and putting the item in a brown envelope and in the safe. Did I make up the story, did it happen in the past? Was this dementia?

After a while I decided that what I had lost was just a material possession and did not have intrinsic value and I had to simply let it go. That was extremely difficult and I felt horribly sad and disappointed for a long time. How could I have lost something so precious? Did someone steal it in my house? Did the bank steal it? Nothing else was stolen or lost. Was it misplaced? Did I hide it somewhere 'safe' in the house, to be discovered joyously one day?

I have another memory of asking my mother to save it for me. But did that happen before we came to Baltimore? I called her today and asked her to look in her safety deposit box, perhaps it will surprise us and she will find it.

Meanwhile, late yesterday afternoon, I was sifting through small bits of paper and coins and junk (mixed up with mouse waste too!) and found a small envelope with two safe deposit box keys and the number 818 on the front. This had to be the keys to my safe deposit box at the bank which was now Wachovia. My heart raced and I could not sit still and although I went through many other boxes and packed up until midnight, my heart did not slow down. And when I tried to sleep, I could not stop anticipating going to the bank and finally feeling some satisfaction. I had agonized about this for years. Finally an answer!

I was at my office at 8 AM and only after meeting with my friend Daphne and starting to organize my files at the office and seeing a patient and waiting and keeping busy with other tasks for fear of not succeeding in this venture, I finally dashed off to the bank, presented my keys and asked to get into my safety deposit box. Same answer; no record of me having a box at the bank. No bills for the box, no signature or card for the box. I asked the manager of the bank to check to see if it was the right key and he examined the two carefully and claimed they looked like the right keys except they were of different colours and usually the keys are exactly the same. He tried one key on the lock and it fit. The box will only open if both the bank master key and mine turn the lock at the same time. The rules of the bank are that I cannot open the box without evidence that it was in fact my box. When I asked years ago, I was told that if I found the key, I could get into the box. Today I was told that if I found the contract for the safety deposit box, that would prove it was mine. Having the keys did not mean anything because I could have stolen them. I told him that he could open the box and check for the item and then know it was mine, but apparently there are rules for such things and this circumstance was so out of the ordinary that until he researched it and found out what happened with the box or the contract for the box, I would not be able to get into it.

And so I am doubting myself again. Perhaps I took the item out of the box and put it somewhere else, but where? What if we open the box and it is empty? I guess that proves that my excellent photographic memory is not what it was. The best outcome is for us to open the box and find that it is in fact mine and does have my very precious item. I think that I would just leave it where it is and feel incredibly relieved that my story and my memory are intact.

I am reminded again of human attachment to material things. Why do I care so much about something small, which I have not seen in years and have not really needed or appreciated. I wanted to believe it was just 'there', that it was still 'mine'. I liked owning something valuable and beautiful, even though I do not see it daily. I have convinced myself that it is not significant, that I have been perfectly capable of living without it and that it has no real impact on my life, positive or negative. I still want it desperately and my heart still races in anticipation of the phone call from the bank manager and a chance to see it again and know it is there.

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