Feb 13, 2007

a love that can outlast the ravages of brain trauma

Today in class this article ignited sometimes fierce discussions on the nature of identity, memory, and "soul mates." Also, it's a great prelude to Valentine's Day, and about as sappy as I allow myself to be.
The old Jeff hated green peppers and turnips. The new Jeff loves them. His likes now are based largely on food he ate in the hospital.

He still smokes, though, just as much as he did before. Penny jokes that she wishes she could have told him he never smoked.

He likes the song "Roxanne," new to him though it came out in 1978. Pop culture is almost overwhelming and, at times, confusing. "William Shatner is Captain Kirk," Penny tells Jeff.

Experts say there are three types of memory: emotional, motor and intellectual, which includes long-term memory. Jeff's motor memory - the ability to know things automatically, such as a burner being hot - was intact.

But not much is known about this rare form of amnesia. It is usually triggered by a stressful or traumatic event. Jeff believes that a friend's cancer in combination with his sensitivity to the anniversary of 9/11 most likely caused it. There is no way of knowing when, or if, he will get his memory back.

Penny has been his teacher and comfort, always reminding him of who he was and how much she cares. She took time off work to be with him.

Weeks after his return, Penny was walking through their house when Jeff blurted out: "You know what? I love you."

She started crying.

He still was getting to know Penny, but his heart knew.

"There's a reason we're together. It's bigger than us," Penny said. "Even though he doesn't know me."
Someday I'm going to create an elective course called "The Persistence of Memory," an Evergreen-style multidisciplinary investigation into the literature, film, art, philosophy, and science of memory. For now, I just offer students connections and fragments. (It helps to be reading The Odyssey and The Death of Artemio Cruz at just the right time.)


Nobody said...

Here via Matt's blog.

Have you seen the film Unknown White Male? It's a documentary of someone with the same "dissociative fugue". Though some critics dismissed it as a hoax I thought it was believable, and this report would lend credibility to the plight of its subject.

Jim Anderson said...

Sounds interesting... thanks. Netflix queue, here I come.

Oh--you're the one who posted the 100 best films you saw, and number one was Children of Men. Now I remember. You have pretty good cinematic taste. (Although I will confess I don't share your fondness for Silent Hill--The Descent was far superior, I thought, at conveying unease. Have you seen it?)

Nobody said...

I haven't seen The Descent. The truth is I don't really like horror movies, but I'm gradually getting into them. Silent Hill wasn't very scary; I liked it more for the originality of its images, like the Pyramid Head, etc. (I know, most of them are from a game, but they were now to me).

I remember The Descent being out in the UK in 2005 and it terrified my friend so that was the last I thought of it. It also came out right after "The Cave" so I assumed it was just another spelunk-horror retread.

By the time The Descent was released in the US and got rave reviews I had missed the boat, but the hype has made me curious so I might look it up on DVD after all.