I knew he didn’t mean to forget me.
Maybe it was a test. Of vigilance perhaps – being able to notice a shift in the wind. No, no, he wasn’t terrible interested in weather shifts except for how in the winter the sun set over the city, and in summer over the hills.
The green wooden bench pressed like a panic button into the underflesh of my 9-year-old thighs.
Perhaps a test of patience. But I had a lot of that. I modeled myself after Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time who “unlike most kids his age, had the ability to sit still.”
Could I spot my dad’s little, sky-blue pickup? I sat statue still and stared at the school’s horseshoe shaped parking lot. Maybe it was a test about not taking a ride from strangers. Maybe a strange man would offer me a ride and I’d have to yell “No!” or “Fire!” or “He touched my breast!”
I tried not to think of kidnappers and murders – real ones, not the men perhaps hired by my family for the test. I tried not to think of how my mom had come into my room when I was feverish with a flu, telling me they had found Polly Klaas’ body, trying to explain the unexplainable. It was the closest I’d hear her to tears until my grandmother died years later, and I was scared of what would happen to her if I was stolen. From home. From school. From anywhere.
Anxiety raved in my mind, throwing a worst-case-scenario party. Maybe my dad had fallen down on one knee, hand to chest. Adults had heart attacks. As far as I knew, kids did too. I raised my hand to my flat chest and checked my heart: ba-bum it said comfortingly. I was still alive. But was my dad?*
I’m sure my dad forgot to pick me up only a handful of times, but it felt like a thousand and one. After the first time I asked him, “How could you forget? You have pictures of me on your desk.” My brother’s and my portraits probably outnumbered my mom’s underneath his plastic desk-topper and pinned to his cork board.
“I know,” he replied. “And I glanced at them and thought, I have a great-looking daughter.”
Why couldn’t you think, ‘I wonder where she is right now?’ I thought to myself.
This memory came to me after a date recently forgot about our plans. Being forgotten, whether as a child on the playground holding a trumpet case, a teenager on the curb with a French horn, or an adult at home with a cell phone in hand, inspires a level of unimportance to another person.
But why? I can’t help but wonder if my sensitivity to all this stems from the fact that being forgotten still strikes up the tune of my Holy shiitake, is everyone okay? anxiety.
If I’ve learned anything from the concussion I had earlier this month, and an “I’m just so busy” life-style like every other adult I know, it’s this: Everyone forgets things. Myself included. We mis-hear, mis-read, mis-remember. And while yes, in a perfect world, I’d be front-of-mind enough to not be forgotten (by my dad as a child, or by my date, who is increasingly front-of-mind to me), we live in a beautifully flawed, imperfect world.
And maybe that’s okay. My mom always says “Forgive and forget.” I wonder if we should also be saying, “Forget, and forgive.”