Sunday, 11 January 2015

Processing the mnemonic markers of decades

Outside the cafe I take a sip of the takeaway coffee I have bought along with my lunch, a bacon sandwich. The creamy taste from the paper cup suffuses throughout my consciousness along with that unmistakable coffee flavour - a unique combination of chemicals, of naturally-occurring elements, that can only be described with one word - which is one of many unique flavours that we are blessed to possess as a result of natural selection, plate tectonics, climate change, astronomic peculiarities in the solar system, and other actors that have effected the earth over the past 4.3 billion years. Humans are truly fortunate, I thought as I walked up the street in the sultry morning sunshine. The heat makes me sweat at this hour, not long after I have finished shredding papers for the day, just as it made me sweat as soon as I got out of bed this morning. But I am grateful for the luscious richness of this hot white coffee from the cafe where I buy my lunch every day.

This morning I went through a range of emotions as I was shredding. Mainly, I was shredding papers dating from 2011 and 2012, and so events of those years came back to me as I assessed the value of each piece of paper. Mum had organised a lot of her papers according to the month and year, and most of the papers were invoices with a payment receipt attached. There was the invoice, for example, for the psychologist I had suggested mum see after dad died. She had been having a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I used to come over in 2011 and try to wake her up but she would protest, saying "I'll get up in a minute". When we knew that she had no intention of getting up if she could help it. I would have to go down to her bedroom several times to rouse her from bed so that she could eat breakfast.

There was, yesterday, the purchase documents for her last apartment, dated August 2011. She had decided to move out of the 4th floor apartment she had shared with dad because a fireman had advised her to move. "We won't be able to carry you down those stairs," he had apparently said to her.

There was the receipt today for dad's funeral, which came to over $6000, from a local funeral parlour. I remember going to the funeral parlour with mum after dad died, and I remember thinking that it must take a special kind of manner to do business in this industry, when nerves and emotions are still so raw. You would need to adapt your speech and body language to the psychological state of the recently bereaved.

Today I also found letters I had sent to mum in the years after I started to come up to visit her and dad, around 2007. I would send her poems, essays, and pictures that I had taken when I was in my 20s, pictures taken 30 years ago, which I had scanned and pasted into documents on my computer, writing glosses in the blank space around them, that tried to contain them and the impulse that drove me, for example, to take photos of the support struts of Australia Square. Most of these items I shredded because the original files are still on my computer; over the years there have been many computers but the old files are always imported into the new machine after I install it at home.

I process the mnemonic markers of decades as I go through the act of disposing of or preserving these old records.

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