Don’t ask me when something happened. I will always underestimate the time that has passed. If I’m sure it was five years ago, that means it was 10.
I don’t lie; I am simply miscalculating all the damned time.
Double your estimate — that’s what my husband and I tell each other. It all started, I’m pretty sure, in the 2000s. I am still perplexed that nobody ever really got around to properly naming that decade. No wonder we got disoriented, when people spent 10 years stupefied by the burden of naming an era. What ever happened to personal responsibility?
Anyway, estimating time used to be a lot easier when we were younger and didn’t have so many decades to keep track of. I had this whole memory index business going and it was pretty accurate. Namely: Which of our four houses and one condo were we living in? Who was I pregnant with? How many kids did we have then (zero, one or two)? Was it before, during, or after I had cancer? Was it before or after my husband and I spent the year in New York?
Using this very sophisticated tool, I can accurately calculate and answer:
When did the Challenger blow up? In the winter of 1986, when I was pregnant with our son. I was working in public broadcasting in Dallas, watching the launch, then explosion, with my co-workers. My own distress quickly moved to my son, who begin to thrash around in the womb. Everybody gathered around to feel him move — a small bit of warmth on that painful day.
When did the price spike on silver after the Hunt Brothers cornered the market? Good question! Call on me! Oh, yes, that happened during the grueling winter of 1979-80, when my husband and I were rock-bottom broke. We sold our wedding silver at top price, which helped us get our electricity turned back on at our first house in Virginia. (Since then, we have always been grateful to the Hunt brothers, in spite of their right-wing politics, and felt quite bad when the silver market collapsed on them.)
Oh, and when did O.J. Simpson get acquitted of murder? Another good one! That was in October 1995. I was making my first visit to the oncologist to find out my treatment plan. My appointment got delayed, though, because everything stopped while the entire staff gathered around TVs and radios for the verdict. And, oh man, talk about bitter! Here, that little rat O.J. got away with murder while I, a non-killer, had to go through chemotherapy.
OK, since you’re so smart, when did the stock market hit its lowest point in the past 50 years? I am now tired of answering questions.
You don’t know, do you? Go away.
Ha! Shut up.
Anyway, I think I already proved my point, which is that it’s easier to keep track of when something happened when you’re young and there’s lots of action in your life you can tie events to and remember them forever.
Right now, though, I’m feeling all right about my husband’s and my strategy of doubling our estimates of time. If we don’t have colorful events like going broke, getting our electricity turned off, or starting chemo to stoke our memories, I may be just fine with that.
(Copyright 2014 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Please read The Ballad of the Sick Husband