Memory Week: What’s My Age Again?


I can fall asleep anywhere. In college, I would fall asleep in class, at club meetings, and even when hanging out with friends. It didn’t bother me, but it annoyed some of said friends. “If you’re tired, just go to bed,” they’d say.

I’ve never seen why falling asleep is offensive to some people. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. And I frequently do both in front of other people—even strangers. When somebody’s tired, they should be able to fall asleep. No guilt.

My wife does not really appreciate me sleeping anywhere else than in bed. We’ll be watching a TV show together on the couch downstairs, and I’ll start to nod off. I don’t mind, but she often does. I’ve had to work to convince her that I like curling up next to her or putting my head on her shoulder or lap, that it’s comforting to fall asleep leaning on her, knowing she’s there. If she’s not ready for bed, but I’m ready for sleep, I’ll put off going to bed. But not sleeping.

Tonight, after I was nodding off during Call the Midwife—a show I really enjoy—I suggested that she watch something I don’t typically watch with her, and that I sleep next to her. I still don’t think she gets it, but she agreed and put on an episode of Sister Wives.

I very quickly nodded off, but bolted upright when I heard my secondborn shouting “Daaaad!” from upstairs.

My wife just laughed. “That was on the show,” she said. “It came from the TV.”

Puzzled, I insisted that I’d heard our daughter calling for me. No, she said, it was on the show. Go back to sleep. So I did.


I snapped up again.

“That’s her this time!” I said, jolted out of sleep again.

Nope. It was the same scene in Sister Wives, being played as a recap after a commercial break made nonexistent by Netflix.

My memory of the rest of my pre-bedtime nap gets hazier from that point, but I’m fairly positive I heard the child shouting a third time. The resemblance to my 4-year-old’s voice was uncanny. I could feel my heart thumping heavily in my chest after each startling “Daaaad!”

* * *

I started this week by noting that I don’t really think my memory is fading, and I’d say that repeatedly forgetting that the yelling I’m hearing is coming from the TV—not my daughter—doesn’t really count, due to the sleep-induced fuzziness.

As the title of today’s post indicates, however, I have noticed some particular trouble in remembering how old I am. In my most recent Freaky Friday post, for instance, I jumped the birthday gun by three weeks—something my wife quickly pointed out. I did something similar earlier in this blog’s life, too, in my most popular post to date, when I said I went to Disneyland for my 34th birthday. Actually, it was for my 32nd birthday.

* * *

So now, since I took a late-evening nap and my wife didn’t, she’s sleeping next to me—in bedwhile I write this post. This is nice, too, and I’ve sort of gotten used to interrupted sleep cycles due to kids climbing in bed with us over the years. In fact, as I started typing this paragraph, the baby woke up and is now tucked on the other side of my wife. If history is any indicator, he’ll eventually end up between us, and he’ll be kicking me in the face by 4 a.m., meaning I’ll probably start nodding off in church tomorrow morning—another place people don’t like to see me falling asleep.


Memory Week: Freaky Friday


I didn’t intend for this week to become a doodle gallery, but cleaning my desk(s) for the New Year yielded so many examples of what happens when I get a pen in my hand.

I’ve showcased some of the random faces I’ve found over the last couple of days, but I saved a few for Freaky Friday. For hopefully obvious reasons.


I’ve recently learned that there are some people—my firstborn among them—who seem to have to be doing some sort of physical activity while they listen in order to process the information they’re receiving. Fiddling with a pencil, for example, lights up part of the brain that in turn helps to hear and comprehend words coming in. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.


While learning about this phenomenon, I realized—somewhat belatedly, I suppose, since I’m 35—that I have to be one of these people, too. I can’t keep still. I’m always either chewing on a pen, sticking one behind my ear, flipping it around my fingers, or—obviously—doodling.


Sometimes the doodles are repetitive. I found half a dozen variations on a rabbit done in orange highlighter.

But sometimes the doodles make me wonder what dark corners the lit-up parts of my brain were illuminating, and what else is hiding there in the shadows.


Memory Week: 2013/2014


Pictured is about a third to a quarter of the doodles I found on my work desk when I cleaned it up at the end of 2013. I make them while I’m on phone calls, but not taking notes; while waiting for particularly large files to open; as meetings are winding down; etc. Unlike the doodles I make at home, these predominantly feature ball-point pen lines and highlighter for color.

Here’s to a blank slate for 2014!

Memory Week: Uh …


“Did you bring up my phone?”

My wife asks the question around her toothbrush as I walk into our bedroom after a quick trip downstairs. I reply quickly and easily: “No.”

Her eyebrows furrow, and then I realize that she’s not just asking out of curiosity.

“Was I supposed to bring up your phone?”

The toothbrush stops.

“You told me you were going downstairs,” she says, “and I asked you to bring my phone back up with you.”

I nod.

“I guess I didn’t hear you,” I say. “I mean, did I respond?”

“You said, ‘Sure.'”

My I-think-you-might-have-only-thought-you-asked-me-to-do-that-out-loud defense can only work so many times. Actually, it never has. So I apologize.

“Sorry,” I say—but then I dilute it by adding, “but I have no recollection of you asking me to do anything when I was going downstairs.”

It’s not like this happens every night, but it happens enough for it to register. At 35 years old, I’m not concerned about my memory leaving me, but I do notice that I’ll set something down, walk out of the room, and not be able to find it when I walk back in 30 seconds later.

That has more to do with our house being cluttered, our having three children who whisk things away (I find my frequently worn sandals in places I didn’t take them off), and my general scatter-brainedness than it does with pure memory, I believe. I hope.

One of my favorite movies when I was growing up was The Absent-Minded Professor—the black and white one, from way back before the Robin Williams remake. Being absent minded has always had a charming, eccentric vibe to me, but I realize it’s not so charming to the people who have to put up with the fact that I don’t know exactly where the car keys are or that I don’t have the laundry basket I apparently agreed to bring in from the garage.

I don’t have a huge takeaway from this, either. I’d like to say that I’m going to resolve to pay more deliberate attention in 2014, but I don’t know how realistic that is. Perhaps a genuine apology to my wife will suffice?

I think I’d feel a lot worse about this—am I tuning my wife out and just automatically agreeing with stuff in order to give her some sort of response so she knows her words at least registered with me on some level?—if she didn’t do it too from time to time to me. Not as often. But from time to time.

I think.

Memory Week: Snow Day


We found a snowman.

Most of one, anyway.

I took a whole week off of work this season to celebrate Christmas (and the days before and after) with family who live five hours away. On the Friday after Christmas, all five members of my family—plus my parents and my wife’s mom—met up about an hour north of where we were staying. We were in search of snow. My parents had driven the route a couple of days before and had spotted some of the white stuff on the side of the road.

My kids had never seen real snow. Not really. There were a few patches of it, like a beard trying to grow on a 14-year-old’s face, on the ground at a cabin we went to one Thanksgiving when my firstborn was 2 years old, but that didn’t really count. It was more like samples of snow someone set out to see how the whole place would look covered in the stuff before they committed.

Snow has fallen only in books and on TV for my children. It has been captured not on tongues, but in photos and illustrations. My 6-year-old’s dream destination is Chicago because she saw a postcard of it once, and there was snow in the picture. The city has since become this mythical, icy wonderland in her imagination. It’s literally at the top of her list of places to visit, beating out Hawaii and Paris.

I’ve been to Paris, and I had an extended layover in Chicago once. Paris is prettier, but Chicago is certainly cheaper when it comes to surprising her with a trip some day. Maybe for a graduation present.

Anyway, when we arrived at this little gas station/diner blip on the map, we found my parents waiting at a small field of what technically was snow. It wasn’t really white, as so many muddy boots had tromped it over the last several days, and the melting/refreezing cycle had made it pretty gray and hard.

“This isn’t what I was expecting,” my firstborn said.

But my parents soon produced a plastic saucer they’d bought on the way in, and we found a hill that seemed like it would offer a fair run. All it took was one successful slide, and the 6-year-old was hooked.

We took turns rushing down the hill one at a time, two at a time, and even three at a time. And after a while, we walked a little ways to find a swath of untrammeled, powdery snow, perfect for scooping into snowballs and crunching around in. That’s where we also found two-thirds of a snowman, with the topmost third—its head—a lump some distance away.

We took pictures of the kids clambering around on its torso, and we joked that the photos would make it look like we’d been building the snowman. Only later did I realize that, years from now, perhaps my kids wouldn’t be able to recall that they’d just found this snowman. Perhaps, like my daughter’s initial disappointment forgotten as soon as she felt the wind on her face on a downhill run, or like Chicago growing from a generic postcard to a frosty wonderland on par with Santa’s North Pole, the rest of the snow trip would change to become something new in my kids’ minds.

The moment was so magical—the sort you hope for when you set out on an excursion like we did—it has the makings of one of those early childhood memories that flickers at the margins of solid recollections later in life. At least I hope it does. I don’t know what my children will ultimately remember about their first years in our household. I don’t know if they’ll look back and treasure the same moments I do: the bedtime stories read on our patio, breath streaming into the chill night air, everything but our faces tucked under layers of blankets, the book visible only by the light of the electric Christmas tree standing above us; the impromptu family-room-floor picnics; the trip to the aquarium to see sharks and otters through a transparent wall, a whole alien world just a few feet away; staying up far later than any of our bedtimes to watch the summer Olympics each night; the made-up stories; the wrestling matches; the sing-alongs.

Maybe all of these things are registering. Or maybe I’ll be surprised to learn that their prized memories are things I don’t recall: drawings I forgot I scribbled, but that meant something to them; casual, unthinking gestures of everyday activity with greater impact than I realize; a particular time of getting tucked in or visiting the pool or cooking a breakfast.

I hope they remember all of it. And I hope Chicago is everything my girl believes it is.