“My Emotional Memory, It happened In A Flash.”
I think back to certain times in my life and it is sometimes difficult to recall where I was, what I was wearing or for that matter what I ate that day (shocking because I love food). There are times I don’t even recall what I was doing. However there is a memory that stands out in my life although not very pleasant, I often wondered why I was able to recall specific details as if it has just happened. After taking this course and learning more about how our memory works, I now have a better understanding. I often wonder though, our mind is such an amazing “computer” and it can perform so many tasks, why can’t it simply delete certain things we don’t want to remember or recall? I suppose that is a function that just isn’t possible.
It has been 18years now since my grandfather passed away. I was in my first few months of Paramedic class in college. I was working full time and going to school, much like I am now. There was a great deal of pressure while in school to study and pass exams. If you failed one , you could retest, fail that and your gone. It was that simple. I remember being home and getting a call from my grandmother to meet her at the ER. She said something is wrong with Pop. She wasn’t exactly sure, but she felt he had a stroke. I immediately got in my car and got to the ER as quickly as possible. I met and talked with my grandmother and said I would go back and see what the story is. As I entered the room and spoke with the ER Dr ( I prefer to leave is name out) I saw my Pop laying there unable to speak clearly, repetitive and limited use of his left side. I knew then the outcome was not going to be good. I became overwhelmed with emotion, but could let my Pop see that. My emotions I now realize are associated with this event that made it is to remember. (Cognitive psych Goldstein p 208. Labar and Phelps proved this in 1998 by using certain words to trigger memory.) Whether it is a word or event, our emotions are clearly more powerful than we think. My flashbulb went off and began photographing this event frame by frame with this highly charged shocking event ( Cognitive psychology Goldstein p209.)
I left the room and stepped outside where I could privately have my moment and begin to come to grips with what is happening. My mind was racing. I needed to get myself under control and go back in to talk to my grandmother. I was not so sure she understood the magnitude of this event. I made some calls and got our hospital ambulance to transfer him to our main hospital when he was ready to go and I made sure I rode with him to care for him. This man was a role model to me. He was tough. He survived WWII. He did some rather amazingly brave things there. He was what I believe every grandson would want in a grandfather. He was a teacher, a friend, a role model. He survived a horrible war and now a stroke has taken this once strong man and weakened him in such a manner he could not care for himself nor communicate. Days had passed while he was hospitalized. The time came for him to move to a nursing home. His health continued to deteriorate and I knew it was only a matter of time before my hero was to leave us. I needed to be brave and strong for him just like he was for his country and family. I helped get him ready to go. I rode with him to his new home. I knew his stay would be brief, thankfully. I am certain he wasn’t happy. Within a few days of him being there, he passed quietly in his sleep. A man strong enough to survive war, but strong enough to survive a stroke, how could that be?
I had a test to take the day he passed and I knew there was no way possible I was going to remember anything. The test was all trauma related, one of my favorite subjects, I just couldn’t focus. I kept replaying everything from start to finish in my head. I recalled certain memories about my grandfather and I. I didn’t pass and had to retest. I was granted a few extra days to allow me to get through the funeral. I was on leave from work and school. As the days passed and it came closer to having to lay him to rest in a military fashion, I began to accept what now is. My emotions becoming more controlled and the memories of my childhood with him as vivid as if they were happening before my eyes, why was this? I now know why and understand.
It is funny how the mind works. It is such a complex organ. It is far more complex than any man made computer. I am not so sure Apple could develop such a computer. I mentioned earlier about there being a delete button, I am not so sure I want a delete button for this flashbulb event. It would erase a time that provides me with some sense of calm, knowing that I was there for a man that was there for me, sporting events, band concerts etc. he never missed. He never saw me graduate college but I know he is looking down and couldn’t be more proud. My emotions that trigger those memories are blessing at times. Although he s no longer physically with me, he lives in my mind. He lives in that flashbulb moment, frame by frame. He “allows” those emotions to be a way to never forget him. Who would think that this course would be able to answer questions that I have had for years? Now that I know that a flashbulb moment and an emotional trigger can be so powerful to stimulate one of the most amazing complex organs, our mind.