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Saturday, January 28, 2006

What to Remember and What to Forget

My business partner hung up the telephone and began to curse, but without a lot of heat behind the words. He had just chatted with a business acquaintence that had said one thing, but did something different. My partner ended his relatively calm string of epithets by saying "I have a long memory."

Is it good to have a long memory? I am notoriously forgetful - you can ask my wife if you don't believe me. I forget where I left my car keys. I forget my cousin's wife's name. I forget that my eldest daughter once suggested that I engage in an anatomically impossible sexual act. I forget that I have screwed up countless songs as a singer and harmonica player. I forget that one of my fellow officers at a major corporation saw to it that I got fired so he could continue to be employed. Sometimes I am a happier person because I have forgotten certain things.

But I remember things, too. I remember the lyrics to "Mustang Sally" (yo Wicked Pickett, I miss you, man). I remember the Christmas morning when my parents gave me a puppy. I remember when my junior high school jazz band won the grand trophy at the Reno High School Jazz Festival many, many years ago. I remember the center field bleachers at Comisky Park in the late 1970's when Harry Carey would set up his broadcast booth in the 15th row surrounded by happy (and inebriated) White Sox fans. I remember the horse-and-buggy ride with my brand new bride from the church to the reception on our wedding day. I remember crossing the finish line at the Chicago Marathon in 1992. I thank God for these, and other blessed memories that I hold somewhere in my soggy brain.

Here's a theory - when people remember bad stuff, nurture their righteous rage, vow revenge - that is when wars are born. Better to focus on remembering the lyrics of your favorite song, the sweetness of that first kiss, anything that makes you smile and calms you down. Better to forget the insults and injuries.

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