The Uncertainty of Memory

Yesterday I spent the day in flying out to Liberty Con, which is funny since the actual flight is about 3 hours.

But you know how it goes.  It involves getting up way too early, trying to muster luggage and cats, driving to the airport, standing in the security theater line — now with dogs! Coming soon, robotic probes! — for (in this case) an hour and a half, making a perfect target for terrorists, making it to the plane, crashing because you are too exhausted, then stopping for food, getting caught in rush hour on the way to Chattanooga, we got in late in the evening.

The actual travel portion of the day was miniscule, and yet it confused the entire day from getting up to getting our behinds back in bed.

I was thinking about this, as I realized our older son turns twenty five today.  For perspective, that’s 3 years less than I was when I gave birth to him.

He just finished his first year in medical school, knows things I never even thought about, much less learned, and has an entire life which is none of our business, much less our not being a part of it (I don’t mean just romantic exploits, but his friends, their favorite restaurants, their favorite books/shows, the habits and traditions they’re starting to form, the things that fill his days and aren’t and shouldn’t be reported to mom and dad.)
And all I can do is scratch my head and wonder where time went.

Like the traveller who left home at six am, I find myself at dinner time, in a different city wondering where the time went.

I’m not complainig about the destination, mind you.  I found myself singing “all the women call him treetop lover, all the men just call him sir,” after an interaction observed in the grocery store last night.  And he’s — obviously — responsible and hard working, smarter than your average pair of socks, has this weird compulsion to want to help sick people, and is ugly as sin, in that undeniably masculine and not unattractive way some guys are.

BUT the question is, where did my cute little toddler go?  He was here just a minute ago!

And we didn’t see him growing, not really, on account of we were busy with careers, and keeping the house sorta clean, and the occasional vacation, and how are we going to (help) pay for college?

So how did we arrive here?  I’m not complaining, except why is the sun setting?  We didn’t spend that much time in the travel?

This is apropos since I’ll be going to Portugal too, right after Liberty con, and I’ll be faced with the other side of this.  You know how that goes.  You’re a little kid, and you know you’re going to grow up and be your parents’ age.  BUT all the time, they’re also aging, so that when you’re an adult the age you remember them at, they’re elderly.

This is not fair to them or you, or the multitudes of humans who came before.  But it is yet true.

The act of living your life spends your life away.  You can’t hoard time.

I’m a science fiction writer and can — and eventually will — write this in a a fairer way.  And then see what results.

But until then happy birthday to #1 son, Robert Anson, and to the person we named him for, and whom we never got to meet as a colleague, due to that unfairness of time.

May you shine brightly, and your light be seen for generations and never fade.

Even if my son is what happens when you lose sight of your toddler for… I swear it was a few minutes.

112 responses to “The Uncertainty of Memory

  1. You lost sight of your toddler and he didn’t burn the house down (or use one vehicle to hit another that was parked, sigh–wait, 12 y.o and I was in the moving vehicle); that’s a win.

    • And my personal physician might be retiring by the time he gets ready so if he wants to return to the land of dog flies and copper heads, send him this way.

  2. Bullseye!

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I bet you can still embarrass him.

    Moms can always embarrass their adult children. 😉

    • Can? It’s a requirement! (Look in the rulebook.). If you don’t embarrass your children at least once every six months, you’ll probably get a yellow card!

      • Really? There is a rule book? We never saw it. Then again we were in the middle of a house addition at the time The Daughter arrived. (It took an extra month to get the foundation poured — drain as we might the it kept refilling with water because rain, rain and more rain.)

        • Well, the rulebook is more notional than actual, to be honest. Maybe we’ll have to write it ourselves, to actualize it!

        • FlyingMike

          I think the Parent Rule Book is classified Need To Know, which parents apparently don’t. It also contains things that are more suggestions than rules, per se.

          But grandparents appear to get access to the full book, with appendicies.

          • FlyingMike

            Yep – I was 6’2″ on my first DL, and the same at HS graduation, but by second year in college I was my current 6’4″.

            Irregardless, Judge Posner is still a moron.

            • FlyingMike

              Ah, Thank You WordPress for putting this reply in an alternate random undisclosed location, instead of down where Wayne mentions growing yet taller after HS graduation.

              WP delenda est.

              And Judge Posner is still a moron.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        My child was acting up in the mall a while back; I explained that she was embarrassing me and if she didn’t stop it, I would embarrass her back.

        She didn’t.

        I broke into a full-voice rendition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. This was by no means an *empty* mall.

        She’s been much better-behaved since…

    • If she sang that within hearing distance in the grocery store while the interaction was going on, I’ll bet she succeeded!

      • My singing ALWAYS embarrasses everyone around. Also, scares them.

        • How do I put this: Roy, who ran the previous bookstore I worked for, had a great selection of Fado on his MP3, and often left his little machine for me to listen to on small speakers. We shared a taste for Celtic and British folk music, but I often dipped into that Fado. Sarah, some of those Fado singers had, technically, much worse voices than you. To judge from those recordings (some of them were so scratchy sounding they might have been turn of the century wax recordings) you just have a pretty good Fado voice.

        • Pfui. You haven’t heard my wife sing.

  4. Children are soap bubbles – they drift into your life when you’re least expecting them (at least mine did). They sparkle and shine and fascinate you for all too brief a time – and then drift back out.

    Sigh… I’d say this was a depressing post, but it’s not. Those bubbles will go on to affect so many other people.

  5. (Sings)

    Is this the little girl i carried?
    Is this the little boy at play?
    I don’t remember growing older,
    When did they?

    When did she get to be a beauty?
    When did he grow to be so tall?
    Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

    Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset,
    Swiftly flow the days,
    Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
    Blossoming even as they gaze…

  6. Happy Birthday Robert.

    Sarah, I find my thoughts turning to a much loved number from “Fiddler on the Roof” – Sunrise, Sunset ::I don’t remember growing older, when did they?::

  7. It was when I looked at the Daughtorial Unit and realized I saw not just who she is but who she was and had been — from the first moment the doctor put her in my arms up until the person standing impatiently in front of me — that I gained understanding of being outside of Time, of having the G-D’s eye view of humanity.

    Human minds aren’t actually constructed to think atemporally. Sequentiality may be an illusion, but it is a very compelling one.

    Nevertheless, Posner is still a moron.

  8. Happy Birthday, Robert! I remember when you were a HUGE toddler, and suddenly couldn’t play in the 3 D mazes that kids four years older than you could play in, because suddenly you were taller than the “have to be littler than this, no older big kids.” And no younger big kids, just wasn’t fair.

    • Meanwhile, my kids will probably be able to play in such mazes well into their 20’s, if their current sizes means anything.

      (Having said that, I have an uncle that could have theoretically played football in high school, and could have played basketball, given his size now — but was unable to do either in high school, because he wasn’t tall enough, or big enough…so their current sizes may very well mean nothing at all!)

      • I was one of those. I was near the bottom of the height range for my class, until I hit senior year. Even then, I graduated around 5’8″, and now I’m 6′.

  9. BTW – Happy Birthday to Robert. There are, up to a point, worse things than getting older.

  10. Bappy Hirthday Robert.

  11. We have nine. All grown, mostly on their own, with little babies everywhere – 10 for those of you keeping score at home. We often marvel at these super amazing human beings we created, even with all their flaws and foibles. And yes, it was just yesterday that they were toddling around in diapers, spilling juice all over the place, pitching screaming fits for no reason at all. Now the grandbabies are zooming through the years … my Facebook just showed me a post from five years ago, holding my then-newly born grandson. He’s off to kindergarten in a few weeks!

    Happy birthday, Robert! Looking forward to seeing all of you very soon!

  12. The unfairness of time, the unfairness of space… otherwise, I would know all of you folks in person, not just over the Internet. (And if I had a better-paying job, I’d be able to go to Libertycon… sigh.)

    And yet, we don’t actually hate time and space. They give us a way to live and grow. We just want to be able to get around ’em.

    • I’m considering putting up a sign in the office: “Next Year LibertyCon.”

      Probably be two, or three, or four… Depends on when I can tell the accountant with a straight face that “Yes, these were a legitimate marketing expenses.”

      (If invited for range day, though, I don’t think I’ll get away with expensing the ammo.)

  13. The princess is reading a bird book to the duchess.
    ‘Magpine” (magpie) has made an appearance, and the ‘flicker’ has been pronounced silly.

    Just a little while ago, she was toddling around like the Empress, but slightly more impressed. And one kid was our world.

    • And the Baron just launched himself off of a rocker chair trying to either climb on the rocking horse, or imitate Captain America.

  14. adventuresfantastic

    “BUT the question is, where did my cute little toddler go? He was here just a minute ago!”

    I’ve been thinking this a lot over the last few months as my son will be entering high school this fall (and already has homework due the first day). He has hit a major growth spurt over the last few months and looks nothing like he did a year or two ago. Since he’s adopted from Kazakhstan, we have no idea what to expect in regards to what his appearance will be as an adult. It’s an interesting process, but at least I can brag about his intelligence and good looks without assuming any false modesty because I had nothing to do with them.

    • The sister and BIL did quite a bit with the “sister city” program here – and one of them is Almaty in Kazakhstan. They had the soccer team from there over for exhibition games. I don’t think they were selected for their good looks, but they certainly were very good looking.

      Now, intelligence, I have always felt that yes, it has to be there to start with – but how intelligent someone ends up has a lot to do with their environment. So I think you had something to do with that aspect…

      • adventuresfantastic

        We were in Almaty for a day when we first arrived and about a week before we left. The rest of the time we were in Shemkent. I liked both cities, although they were very different.

  15. A very Happy Birthday to Robert. Congratulations on surviving the first year of medical school. Best wishes for this next year.

    HUGs to esteemed hostess. Yes, they do keep changing. And toddlers they were are missed — mostly once they have grown. (If only because we are too exhausted at the time they are toddlers.) Of course, we are always very thankful when we can see that they are becoming happily independent, which is what we do hope for them.

  16. Happy Birthday, Robert!
    Sarah, the pangs of seeing them growing and grown is offset by the joys of seeing them settled, married and parents.
    Look at the bright side; you still have grand kids to look forward to. And they really are more fun. Partly because grand Parents can let them get into more things and shield them form strictures.
    Mazel Tov!
    (To continue the FOTR quotes)

  17. Happy Birthday, Robert! Sarah, Happy mother’s day to you! Wait until you have grandchildren.

  18. Randy Wilde

    I found myself singing “all the women call him treetop lover, all the men just call him sir,”

    Better Croce than Chapin.

    I’m thinking Cat’s in the Cradle here… I suppose All My Life’s a Circle wouldn’t be so bad.

    • Yep, that’s what the online lyrics say. But I swear I hear “three-time lover.”

  19. Happy birthday Robert from a fan of both your mother and your namesake.

  20. The last line is haiku in spirit. It is near perfect.

  21. Happy Birthday, Robert!

    Sarah, time to start bugging him about grandchildren. I think it’s required action at this point. Rules need to be obeyed. 🙂

  22. It is something I’ve always been aware of, as a person with the crippling ability to see the implications of things. As a child, I remember being at my grandmother’s house, and seeing a picture of my mother and grandmother when Mom was but a toddler. The next couple of days were a bit of an introspective fugue, as I worked through all that that meant. Since then, I’ve had the awareness of how time impacts us all, in this dance of life. Which is something I don’t think the average person is ever really aware of, until it slaps them in the face.

    One wonders what the implications are, for extended human life–Or, for those set out of the normal time-flow of their lives. We don’t have these technologies, yet… But, we will.

    Say that the universe were such that the very real possibility exists that you might one day meet your actual ancestor, through the vagaries of some technologic work-around for the limitations of the speed of light. How does that work, and what are the ramifications for the culture and society? Posit a situation where you might actually run into people descended from you and yours, and who have a very good idea about your actual legacy, and how all your decisions really worked out?

    I suspect that the people who grasped the implications of this would probably lead rather circumspect lives. I think a few ringing examples of someone like a Hitler, or a Pol Pot being tried for “crimes against humanity” by their descendents who popped out of a random wormhole, and found themselves in the era before they really got going as mass murderers might be tempted to exert some “informal criticism” on those parties, and if it turns out that that wouldn’t have a paradoxical effect and eliminate our hypothetical fish-out-of-the-time-stream from existence…?

    I kind of chortle at the idea of ol’ Adolf in the docks, right next to the rest of the clown princes of the Nazi party, put there by remote descendents who made a slight navigational error in returning to our universe. The jury getting to see the volumes of historical data our time-displaced wanderers could present…? Mmmmm… Delicious, no?

    • Or just return a few years earlier, slip the art school master a few marks to let the boy into the art program instead of telling him to piss off, and help him go down the path he originally chose for his life.

      Odd, how with the power to change things, most people would opt for revenge instead of prevention…

      • Yeah, but in The Return of William Proxmire, his prevention actually made things worse (in Proxmire’s eyes).

      • Because making the problem quietly go away doesn’t serve as a warning to others

      • Because revenge is more emotionally satisfying. Same reason for the coup counting you see in sjw circles and politics.

      • I’m thinking of a situation where you don’t really have precise control over “when” you are going… More of an occassional “slippage” sort of thing, as a side-effect of side-stepping the light-speed limitations. And, think of the amusement to be had, were a bunch of 23rd-Century Germans to show up around, say… 1935-ish? Would they sign up for WWII “done right”, or show everyone the results of where the Nazis were going? Consider the impact of seeing the casualty lists from the Eastern Front, the records of the financial shenanigans, the art thefts, the bombed-out cityscapes… How long would the Nazis manage to hold on to power?

    • Professor Badness

      I had some right Bast*rds for ancestors, so I really wouldn’t be interested in meeting some of them.
      And I already know the rest are watching over me, so , it’s all good.

      • Yeah, but would those ancestors still have behaved like right bastards, with the salutary lesson of one of their own recent bastard ancestors having had some of his descendents show up out of nowhere, at random, and with a summons to court to be judged…?

        Wouldn’t have to be a Hitler-scale sorta thing, either: Imagine being able to get your hands on the idiot who decided to introduce starlings to North America? The genius who released rabbits in Australia?

        I find the concept of introducing accountability between the generations to be an amusing concept. Contemplating the expression on Hitler’s face, as he was hauled off to be hung, with all of his still-living victims lining the streets, watching, catcalling? Absolutely delicious.

        Of course, the judicial system would likely have a nervous breakdown, while dealing with this sort of thing. I imagine some interesting law would come out of the whole thing.

        • Contemplating the expression on Hitler’s face, as he was hauled off to be hung, with all of his still-living victims lining the streets, watching, catcalling?

          Hitler wasn’t hung — he only had one ball.

          His victims wouldn’t have lined up for the procession, either, as they would have found tales of his intended crimes unimaginable.

          So, what would you do to deter Stalin or Mao?

          • So many possibilities. Imagine the Lutheran priest Hitler meeting with Eastern Orthodox priest Jughasvili in a concentration camp as a communist Germany and Soviet Union war against Britain, France, and Italy. Meanwhile, the Buddhist Priest Mao struggles to practice his faith under Japanese occupied China. Okay, so Mao’s a stretch, but both Hitler and Stalin were on track to become clergy.

            Heh. What if Hitler had become a successful painter and Stalin a famous poet? Then someone starts wondering why two unexceptional artists became so successful, and discovers they had a little help.

            • What if Hitler had become a successful painter and Stalin a famous poet?

              What if their families had emigrated to America*, to Brooklyn, and the two of them met and wrote comic books together?

              *A small but significant inheritance, “which you have to come to NY to receive.”

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, if you believe Harry Turtledove’s Joe Steel, even if Stalin was born in the US, he’d still be an evil SOB. 😉

            • Joe Wooten

              Being Austrian, I thought Hitler’s family was Catholic???

              • Turns out you are correct. He attended a Roman Catholic school and considered becoming a priest. I can’t find the source now, but IIRC, he left under a cloud involving the death of a girl. This may have come from his OSS psychological profile (amazing what you can find on the Internet), but I haven’t verified this.

                • He was born Catholic, yes. But no, he never considered entering the priesthood, that’s just anti-Catholic bullcrap from Jack Chick and his minions.

                  • Sigh. It was not my intent to turn this into a religious argument.

                    Since you have brought it up, Hitler’s attraction to the priesthood while he attended a religious school is documented. How, exactly, is that anti-Catholic? It was the young Hitler who considered the priesthood, not the priesthood who considered the young Hitler. That Hitler, at one point, wanted to become a priest means absolutely nothing about Roman Catholics, just as his attempt to become a painter means nothing about painters, and Stalin’s poetry under the name Soselo means nothing about poets. It’s simply what happened,nothing more nor less, and offers an interesting fork for alternate history.

                    • Where is your source, I can’t find any such assertion as this.

                    • Where is your source, I can’t find any such assertion as this

                      It’s very easy to find with a web search. Google Books turns it up on page 28 of Hitler’s Violent Youth, by Bob Carruthers. And where did Mr. Carruthers get this information? Apparently from Mein Kampf. Hitler himself claimed it.

                      It really is easy to find. I don’t recommend Wikipedia, but their reference for this information is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1960, by William L. Shirer, pages 10-11.

                      I wouldn’t get upset about it. It’s just a point of history. Nothing more nor less. You can find someone unsavory attracted to any belief system, be it religion or atheism or whatever.

                    • It is anti-Catholic in the presumption that there must be something wrong within the Church for it to have attracted somebody like him.

                      It is posnoronic, sure, and no rational person could reach that conclusion, but since when has anti-Catholicism (or, for that matter, antisemitism) attracted the rational (as opposed to the rationalising)?

                    • Oh, heck, RES, all Leftists want to claim Hitler was Christian of one stripe or another. And Jack Chick qualifies.

                    • Yes, well. Oscar Wilde, while studying at Magdalen College, Oxford, seriously considered converting to Catholicism and entering the priesthood. What one once openly considers does not paint a full picture of what he later becomes.

                    • Well, Wilde did. In the eleventh hour, to be sure. As in, the priest summoned to his deathbed performed a conditional baptism on the spot even though Wilde was unable to consent, because those around him said he wanted it, and he was that close. (Though he did regain consciousness enough to make a profession of faith before the end.0

                    • Churches, as opposed to an ideal concept of “The Church”, are composed of frail and faulty humans. As a preacher once said, “if you find a perfect church, don’t join it — you’ll ruin it!”
                      So, yeah, that someone more imperfect than most considered joining a church and attempting to attain a position of influence within it is not a reflection on the church, other than that it seemed attractive; and perhaps yet another example that to be open to those who should be part of your group will necessarily make you open to some who should not.

    • FlyingMike

      You have no idea the effort and expense that the Transdimensional Insurance Board has to expend to protect various timelines from little bands of vigilantes hopping through wormholes and holding kangaroo courts such as you describe.

      • Yeah, well, everybody knows kangaroos make lousy juries. Their brains are too addled.

      • Oh, I’m not suggesting a kangaroo court; give the bastard full due process, and let him try to defend himself from the verdict of history. Likely, you couldn’t convict, say, Hitler for the Holocaust, but you could damn sure get the creatures who were at the Wannsee Conference. Hell, if you were to just drop a copy of Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich on much of the staff of the German Army, and let them get a load of where most of them were going to die, thanks to his inept leadership? Yeah, forget the trial, you’re likely to have a lynching on your hands.

        • The verdict of history might be too harsh – how many of us do things that seemed quite reasonable, even good, at the time, which turned out badly for ourselves and sometimes for others as well?
          So you get down to extreme cases of that legal bugaboo, “what a reasonable person should have known” as a standard.
          Would hate to be a judge on THAT court!

          • There is a bigger problem: How do you try someone for a crime he’s yet to commit? Hitler’s attorney has only to point to the court and say in the time traveler’s history this never happened. The time travelers themselves have proven what a man may or may not do is not carved in stone, thus how can his client be held culpable for what he may do,especially now that the world knows the possible outcome of his actions?

            • Professor Badness

              Cathartic as it may be to go back in time and put on trial/kill Hitler for his crimes, it would be unethical to punish someone for something they have not done yet, even if you know that they will/would.
              I’m pretty sure most of the atrocities in history would have happened with or without the leaders of note.

              • kenashimame

                Precisely, do you want to take out Hitler then risk someone competent and sane to take over Weimier Germany and run roughshod over Europe?

              • it would be unethical to punish someone for something they have not done yet

                Only unethical for conservatives to advocate that — Proglodytes are quite clearly wholly untroubled with punishing wrongthink (so long as they imagine they will be the ones who define it.)

            • Didn’t the movie Minority Report go into this?

        • Shame on you for wanting to deny Hitler’s “victims” the opportunity to extirpate their bad karma. You are an evil, evil person.

          But Posner remains a moron.

      • Patrick Chester

        There was a webcomic depicting a pair of SS guards guarding Hitler’s bedrooms. One seemed uncertain and when asked by his partner said that he’s happy with all the good work Hitler has done with the economy and so on but — and then… a time traveler appears and starts attacking. The guards manage to kill him and the uncertain guard says “It’s these time travelers that keep showing up trying to kill the Fuhrer!” Or something like that.

        • I’ve heard of a story where a future Jew used a time traveling mental device to try to drive Hitler to suicide while he was still young — and mentally told him that he was doing it on behalf of the Jews.

          That is, you had a man who had done nothing and had nothing against Jews being persecuted by someone explicitly saying that the Jews were after him. . . it turned out to be a stable time loop.

  23. Happy birthday Robert, aka Leroy.

  24. If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do . . .

    Happy birthday, Robert!

  25. When I was a child, I always thought that adults naturally had everything under control and that as I grew I would acquire this ability.

    The realization that everyone is making it up as they go along was terrifying.

  26. So true — and so very well said! Thanks. G.

  27. Christopher M. Chupik

    Happy 25th, Robert. 🙂

  28. kenashimame

    Happy Birthday to Robert.

    And yes, it’s frightening how soon they turn into adults.

    • Even more frightening is the number of them who get their full growth without becoming adults.

  29. Ox 25 miles from Chattanooga.
    Posner still moron.

  30. Patrick Chester

    Happy Birthday, Robert! You’re not getting older, just better! 😉

  31. Patrick Chester

    I don’t have kids though I am an uncle so it’s hit me if indirectly. I remember my nephew Max being this little toddler who would grab my hand and drag me off on an adventure, or I’d pick him up an walk around so he could see things from a big person’s view. Saw him recently some months ago and he’s 16, almost 17 and TALL. O_o;;

    Similarly, my oldest niece Clare I can remember a picture of her just a few minutes old being weighed and measured by the doctors. Her eyes were open and she had this… dubious “who the heck ARE you people?!” look on her face. She’ll be five in September.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      My oldest Nephew is now married with a five-year old boy.

    • I remember my twin nieces running down hotel hallways to be simultaneously scooped up and held — then they entered school and I told my wife “they can’t do that, it makes me feel old!” — and now they’re in their 30’s with families of their own.

  32. And thus do I cuddle my own little toddler every chance I get. Though he’s getting less little every day (Nearly 3ft tall! and he’s not even two!) Enjoying it while it lasts. Happy Birthday, Robert!

  33. Aaw, I feel a little weepy. My twins are approaching 14, but I also wonder where my babies went and where my toddlers went. I want them to grow up and grow strong – of course – but I also miss their baby selves.

  34. My toddler is going to be a kindergartner this year and I am just not okay with that. And my other one is going into 7th grade and is almost taller than I am. I miss my cuddlebugs.

  35. Pray for Dallas.

  36. Prayers and support to the citizens of Dallas and to all the brave law enforcement officers, especially in this time of tragedy and loss.
    And nothing but shame and disgust for a national leader who would take advantage of this terrible thing to yet again promote his agenda to turn the people into defenseless victims.

  37. “The years are short, but the days are long.”