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Boomer Bytes #54: Commemorations and Remembering

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

Commemorations and Remembering

By Steve Canipe

Jan. 23, 2015. As I was walking this week, something popped into my head. This week a year ago was when my older sister, Carolyn Canipe Parker, passed away. This started me thinking about commemorating/remembering dates and events in general.


I suspect that many of us can remember certain dates that hold especial significance in our lives. The date we got married; the date our children were born; the date we bought our first house; dates when special loved ones died; and probably many other dates can come to mind.

A quick internet search gave me many commemorative days listed throughout the year. There seems to be something for almost every one of the 365 days as well as leap year’s 29 February. Some people looking at some of the days would probably consider some more important than others. For example, many folks might not be particularly interested in commemorating World Sparrow Day on 20 March. Others like Valentines, Columbus, Rosh Hashanah, Christmas, and May Day would be more widely acclaimed; although some of these might not be universally appreciated.

In addition to the more traditional days in honor of religious and widely acclaimed secular events, there are some special days that would be understood (even if not accepted) by large groups of Americans. Days like 7 December 1941, 11 September 2001, and 15 February 1898 have particular significance.

Wait you might say. You certainly understand the December date and associate it with Pearl Harbor; or the September date and associate it with the World Trade Center; but what of that February date before the turn of the last century? You may better remember the slogan more than the date – “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain.” Many of the Boomers and probably even more of the younger people will have forgotten the date of the sinking of the Maine and of the significance of the event. The slogan might be remembered but the history behind it is probably lost on almost anyone reading this column.

Will we one day soon forget Pearl Harbor and the date that according to President Franklin Roosevelt, “…will live in infamy..”? As the various generations move on to history, it is little wonder that the big events of their time get forgotten.

It is a little sad that this forgetfulness seems to happen with important dates, but if it did not, perhaps we would be totally inundated with trying to remember too many things. A number of years ago I was the principal at a middle school in Charlotte. In 1991 before I came to the school in 1994, there was a tragic accident where a bus was hit and three students killed. When that occurred, as might be expected, there was a great feeling of trauma among classmates, teachers, and the entire community. Those students were in the 7th & 8th grades in the spring of 1991. When I got to the school, each year there was a time for remembrance of the loss. During my last year at the school in 1996, the remembrance was low key since there were no students who had been in the same class with them and their graduating classes were gone from the adjacent high school. Also there were no siblings of any of the three who died at the school.

These students were not forgotten as there was a special technology lab in their honor and also on the grounds there were memorial trees and benches in their honor. I suspect if you went back to the school today twenty-one years after the accident that no one would remember the event and might not even remember the reason for the trees, benches, or the memorial lab. Technology in the last two decades has advanced and none of the equipment, computers, etc. originally purchased back in 1991 would remain except as oddities – certainly nothing usable would remain other than perhaps a desk or white board.

Many people keep special days in their families and these days are remembered and may be passed down through generations. It is when a family line begins to die out or get thinned out due to marriages and individuals who move away from the original family site that traditional remembrances get lost.

I can for example, remember the exact dates that my parents passed away. My children could probably place the month but not the day. Their children, when and if they have any, may remember the year but not the month and the next generation (would be my great grandchildren) may or may not remember the year date or even the people at all. This is just the nature of the world. Does not make forgetting it right but reality is what is not what we wish it to be.

Maybe some of the remembrances get lost in our aging and loss of memory not associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those reasons can be forgiven but what about not being able to remember your spouse’s birthday or your children’s? Why do we have an easy time with some things and not with others?

A lot of research has been done on how the brain processes memories. There are many sites that one can find by an internet search. One of the ones I find interesting is at http://www.human-memory.net/. This website opines that the popular notion of the brain as a filing cabinet or a mini-supercomputer is not entirely accurate or useful in helping to understand the complexities of memory. A lot of study on memory has focused on the hows and whys.

I have sometimes felt like banging my head against the wall when I cannot remember something. It is like I know that I know something but just cannot recall it – or dredge it up from the depths of wherever in the brain that tidbit of information is housed. What I have found is that if I don’t try so hard to remember, a while later, maybe a day or more later, the information ort will pop into my conscious state and I will think – “of course!!”

Humans have been studying memory from at least 2000 years ago. Aristotle wrote a essay called “On the Soul” where he thought all humans are born with a blank slate without any memory and during the course of our lives material is put inside the storehouse. This “storehouse” metaphor basically like creating a record in wax held sway in human thought for over a millennia and a half.

As we continue to learn more both about the brain and memory, maybe we can better understand not only what we remember but why we remember it. I am sure that the readers of this column will have various experiences with memory and also forgetfulness. Hopefully none of the readers will have the forgetfulness associated with any type of dementia but just the slowing down of the neuronal connections.

I would be most interested in hearing your experiences with memory and commemorations. Please share them below or send me an email to boomerbytes@yahoo.coom. I look forward to hearing from you.