“People fall out of the world sometimes but they always leave traces. Little things you can’t quite account for, faces in photographs, luggage, half eaten meals, rings… nothing is ever forgotten, not completely. And if something can be remembered… it can come back.” – The Doctor
When I first heard those words, I was sitting in an Albergue, (a hostel) in Spain while doing the Camino de Santiago. I was watching part one of the series 5 finally of Doctor Who on my iPad. It was one of many moments that gave me goose pimples and one that instantly felt true.
When you really think about it, how many people through out your life do you think you have forgotten? Significant people? Surprisingly, I found that this is a very rare occurrence for most people.
“…but, not everyone has a thousand some odd friends, and that’s just counting your Facebook.”
I’ll defend the amount of friends and acquaintances I keep another time. The quote from ‘Doctor Who’ came to mind after I ran into Dolores Parker Cardenas. My Mum and I were killing time at Dadeland mall because my car was at the dealership across the street having a scheduled maintenance.
After doing a little shopping with her I decided to sit. Of course she wanted to keep shopping so we agreed that I’d hang out at the e-bar by Nordstrom until she was ready to go. I was parched and normally would opt for a cup of coffee except a 20oz. of apple juice was looking like liquid gold nutrition priced at 3 dollars; almost worth the price; you can get a few liters of the really good stuff at the supermarket for that price. One must do their part to restore the economy to its former glory.
I was going to sit at a table by myself because that’s what we do in Miami, we find the biggest table with the most chairs and we sit in it as though we’ve discovered a new island and claimed it for our own personal countries. Maybe it was the delicious apple juice but I stopped myself, and decided I’d take one of the armchairs in the middle of the courtyard, set up kind of like a bizarre hotel sitting area.
There was a thin elegant looking elderly lady sitting in the armchair next to mine, a small table to place drinks on created the appropriate distance between us. She was reading a soap opera book that looked like those pulp romance novelettes you buy at the pharmacies downtown. I thought she looked familiar but it didn’t dawn on me just then, that she was.
I don’t know what made me look at her features, but I realized after a few glances, that she was someone I actually knew.
I completely destroyed her concentration and she looked up at me quizzically.
“Hello, do I know you?”
“Yes, yes, its me, Sohail, Sohail Fazluddin, you volunteered at the Barnacle and I worked there for a while, you used to take me home in your car on days you volunteered, you came to visit me with your daughter once at the Apple Store and we walked around the mall, we sat at the water fountain by Macy*s and…”
The entire while she stared at me, straining to recall who I was, because I was stating things she did remember. It was a terrible blow to my ego at first; most people cite my name as a reason why I cannot be forgotten.
“I’m really sorry, I just don’t remember you.”
“That’s fine, okay, we spent a lot of time together, but that was a long time ago…”
“… Yes” she said with some relief that she had an out, “Those days were so long ago, I’m surprised you even remember me.”
But it wasn’t a surprise to me, I’d had so many meaningful moments with her, and we spoke a lot about her family and her husband and for the next half hour I recounted all that I knew, and she was genuinely surprised to hear me recount them. When I found out she was 84 years old now, it sort of solidified my theory that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. My mother came back and I introduced them, Dolores was kind and wonderful to both of us. She offered to invite us to eat something, her treat. And just when I thought she was starting to recall, she’d state, “Well I’m so glad you remembered me, I’m so sorry that I don’t remember you.”
I had fallen off the face of her world; I was a stranger who knew things about her, an anomaly.
There aren’t many people around my life that I worked with. My closest friend from the Barnacle days passed away a couple of years ago. Dolores never let me walk to the metro-rail station, in fact she would always drive me home even though it was farther than her home. She told me stories about her fabulous life in Columbia, and her children. She showed my mother a charm bracelet, each of the charms represented one of her grandchildren, there were at least 20 charms; She showed us the ring her husband had given her on to mark Colombia’s independence which coincided with the moonwalk, it was a moonstone set in gold. She remembered the things that were present, that were part of her body. I wasn’t represented by jewelry.
It was time for us to go, and this wonderful lady stood up and hugged us both. I’d already surrendered to being forgotten, and then she turned to me and said, “I remember the name, Sohail, (she spelled it out) I remember the name, that’s funny.”
She said she’ll be in that spot the next time I am at the mall.