Friday, July 18, 2014

"I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia": Do our memories really make us who we are?

I read memoirs to meet incredible people with incredible stories.  Su Meck's memoir "I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia" tells the incredible story of how at age 22 she was struck on the head by a ceiling fan and suffered a traumatic brain injury.  In her memoir, she pieces together her treatment (which seemed inadequate for the extent of injury), her life at home with two her two small boys after the accident, her marriage to her ever absent husband, Jim, and her survival without any memories and without the thinking ability that she had before the accident.

I will never look at ceiling fans the same (the day I started reading this book, my husband stuck his head under our ceiling fan in the bedroom that was recently installed to check if it was wobbling and I freaked out a bit until he moved his head away from the blades). I will also never take my intact memory or ability to learn or function in my life for granted.  Su Meck's story reminded me that we can really do whatever we want to do in our lives even when we are presented with seemingly insurmountable obstacles to success.  After her accident, Su mimicked those around her without understanding the "why" behind actions.  She would frequently have what she terms "lightening" episodes where her brain would almost do a system shut down when she was presented with too much information or things got too intense.  Sometimes these "lightning" episodes would happen when she was alone with her two boys, and even when she was driving.

As she coped with being misunderstood by her husband (who is brave for allowing his wife to share their story since he comes off as a villain in many respects), her family,  and the medical community's lack of understanding at how severe her injuries were and the extent of her memory loss and functionality, she achieved so much every day.  Even getting breakfast, lunch and dinner together for her family was a huge task for her not to mention that she went on to teach aerobics classes, volunteer in her son's classes, move to Cairo and learn how to function as a mother in a new space, and she even goes on to achieve a college degree even though she basically had to relearn everything including letters, colors, numbers, reading and writing at the age of 22. After applying to be on the Phi Theta Kappa board at Montgomery College, and being selected as an officer, she and the other members were asked to bring in a bag of significant objects to aid in getting to know each other.  Su brought her "Hop on Pop" book and explained to the group that it was the first book she had ever read. She shocked everyone when she told them she read it at age 22.

Because she opened up to that group, her life began to change again.  Being accepted by her fellow Phi Theta Kappa members helped her to see that she people needed to hear her story. Daniel de Vise from the Washington Post wrote a story about her (and eventually went on to help her write her memoir).

Although this book wasn't the best written memoir I have ever read (there are so many exclamation points in this book), but I overlooked the lack of style and graceful writing knowing that the author's incredible story of climbing her way back after a traumatic brain injury led her to write a book about her experiences in order to help others who might be suffering in silence like she did for so many years.  Su Meck's book is a great reminder for me why I love memoirs - they show me that nothing is impossible and they connect me to amazing people who I would have never met otherwise.  Stories truly do connect us to other people, and Su Meck is one person that I feel honored to be connected to after reading her memoir.

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