Michael Mordarski: Short-term memory

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - 6:49pm

Recently, on an early Monday morning, I was sitting in a crowded coffee shop sipping a large cup of scalding anxiety stimulant as I awaited an upcoming interview for an internship. I was running on a restful three hours of sleep due to the after effects of spending my Saturday night enthusiastically switching from bar to bar with old friends. So, extremely anxious and lacking in sleep, my progress of memorizing answers for the interview ahead was interrupted by some nostalgia.

Because in front of my table, a young boy and his mother were waiting to order. And just as I looked up, I caught what was just a typical and casual moment between them. He was being a kid, curiously looking into the cooler near the counter at the several treats and drinks while holding onto the leg of his mother. And she, while answering his innocent questions, casually reached down and ran her hand through his hair. He looked up and smiled at her.

It was just casual expression of love between the two of them, he holding onto her for security and she partly admiring and playing with the hair of her young child.

And then there I was, the anxious, bloodshot-eyed, 21 year old in a suit, staring at these two like a madman. My mind, triggered from such a typical interaction between mother and child, had a nostalgia-fueled recollection of the countless days I spent literally looking up to my mother while enjoying the innocence of childhood. And now here I was, a young man in his brand new suit, anxiously awaiting a prestigious interview, nursing a large coffee to combat his exhaustion from an exciting weekend — only there because of the undying love and effort from his two parents.

Because I often delude myself into believing I am a partially self-made “man.” That my intelligence, work ethic and personality have been, and are being, further enhanced and crafted by my intervention solely. That obviously I am extremely thankful for benefitting from the massive investments and work my parents did for me, such as the private school education, excellent health care and lessons in morality and manners — but I fool myself into the thinking that my more recent past, which has been greatly controlled by me, has led me into my promising future.

And all it takes is a kid who vaguely looks like me to smile at his mother to trigger the wave of memories I often repress of the undying love my parents demonstrated toward me. Not just the big things, but more so, the thousands and thousands of small interactions we had that unfortunately I cannot remember. These small expressions of love that add up instilling a sense of worth and character within a child that I as a self-serving 21 year old cannot even begin to grasp how much effort is required to do so.

Former President Obama explained this instilled love from the efforts of parents best in “The Audacity of Hope.” Writing about his daughter’s birthday party he explained, “I wonder if Sasha will remember that moment when she is grown. Probably not; it seems as if I can retrieve only the barest fragments of memory from when I was five. But I suspect that the happiness she felt on that (day) registers permanently in her; that such moments accumulate and embed themselves in a child’s character, becoming a part of their soul.”

And that is exactly what happened with my parents and I. The countless moments and expressions of love my parents had toward a young me gave me that sense of worth and confidence which allow me to passionately pursue my future. My qualities and work ethic come from the fact that there were people in my childhood who loved me unconditionally and gave me some sense of worth. But the enthusiasm I have of the future often can blind me of that past. I’m full of energy, excited about what lies ahead and constantly preoccupied dreaming about what could be in a way that only an educated, adept and ignorant young person can.

And my parents catch the collateral of this. The young boy they raised, the one who held their hand so tightly, crawled into their bed when he had nightmares and asked them thousands of innocent questions about the world, is now so focused on the present to determine his future that his focus often blinds him from the previous effort and love they put into him. My short-term memory hurts them.

I’m busy, preoccupied and always excited for the next chapter. But now, I’m not entering a new chapter, but a completely new volume of life. One that feels far more independent and exciting but has changed the relationship between me and my parents. I now have adult problems, problems like they have. Sometimes, I forget how much I cherish those thousands of hours that weren’t particularly special or important, just brief moments with the people who loved me and raised me. And I can take some comfort in knowing that my ever-present nostalgia will constantly remind me of that.

I’m sorry I’m getting older, mom and dad, I can’t help it. I’m busy thinking I can change the world.

Michael Mordarski can be reached at mmordars@umich.edu