Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fighting the Paper War

For the past two days, I’ve been fighting the paper war and though I’ve won a couple of minor skirmishes, I cannot say that I’m anywhere close to winning. It seems that I have bags, boxes, storage tubs, file cabinets and various temporary containers chocked full of paperwork.

I’ll be the first to admit that I get totally aggravated with myself when I can’t find an important piece of paper. When I’m being good, I file things away, or at least put common papers in their designated spot. On most days, I throw my mail on the end table and may or may not look at it, much less sort it.

Considering how hectic my life is, it makes perfect sense that I work in organized chaos most of the time. I put one project aside to work on another with a shorter deadline. I shuffle bags containing my writing group, Alzheimer’s council, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Sedalia Business Women, Business Women of Missouri, and writing projects. Sometimes, I feel like throwing everything in the air and working on it randomly.

Yesterday, I tackled some of the various boxes marked “go through” which means I got tired of looking at the paper, didn’t have time to sort it, and just gave up and boxed it. So tackling one of those boxes has to be on a day when I don’t have anything else to do…or not. That day hasn’t happened yet, so I just decided to take a slice of time from pending deadlines to look at the waste products from past projects.

I sorted into two piles—keep and throw away. After a while, I became more hardened to what I felt like I could just toss. I threw away memories along with many of my creative efforts. When in doubt, I figured many of the papers were stored on a thumb drive somewhere.

Tossing, sorting, and examining documents was going quite well until I came across Jim’s Safe Return application. Then, the world seemed to stand still for just a moment as I recalled filling out the form. That piece of paper was a reality check. If Jim wandered off, he could become lost and need help to be reunited with us.

The part of the document that brought me to tears was the location of his tattoos. I knew one was on his left wrist because he covered it with his watch, one was on his thumb, and another on his shoulder. For some reason, I had trouble remembering just which shoulder was tattooed with his name. I could always picture the tattoo in my mind’s eye: “Jim” obviously a homemade tattoo. It looked like a prison tat, but in Jim’s case, his cousin Joe did the honors when they were young.

When I first met Jim, I didn’t believe he owned a shirt without the sleeves ripped off it. So I saw the tattoo the day I met him, and nearly every day of our marriage. So why did I have this mental glitch about which shoulder?

While fighting the paper war, I found a document that confirmed the tattoo was on his right shoulder. Of course, it was! I’m sure I knew that all along.

Some memories are painful, but I’m thankful that I have them. With all the millions of memories running though 100 billion connectors in my brain, it is no wonder that some of them are hard to find. It might take something to jog that memory and bring it to the forefront. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

With the discovery of the Safe Return application, I decided the paper war was best left on hold for me to return and fight another day. It only goes to show that among all the worthless pieces of paper we hang onto, sometimes a gem exists among them that freshens a memory from a different time and place.

Copyright © February 2013 by L.S. Fisher