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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Savant? Or Just Blind Memory?

Sometimes I forget how hard it is for people with normal vision to remember things.  I don’t see well enough to use a smart phone and the address book in my 2007 model flip phone is as empty as Kim Kardashian’s head.  Sure, it would be nice to be able to store and then find phone numbers in there, but the font size isn’t large enough for me. 

From what I’ve observed, everyone stores everything on their phone now.  Nobody has to actually remember a number.  Nobody, that is, except people like me.  I was reminded of this last Sunday night.  A friend of mine I talk to every two or three weeks was surprised I remembered his number.  We were at my house and I told him I remember numbers I called frequently from several years ago.

“I still remember the number for J C Penny and I worked there back in the 80s,” I bragged.  “Well, and again briefly in the 90s when they built the new one.”  To prove it, I grabbed my cordless land-line phone (yes, I still have one of those) and called the number.  The recorded message was loud enough for both of us to hear with me holding the phone up.

Maybe I’m a savant.  I don’t know.  It’s always been easy for me to remember numbers, even before the vision loss.

These days, it’s easier for me to memorize a number than look  it up.  Most people could do the same thing if they tried.  They just don’t have to.

I’m leery of paying bills online.  But I’ve never heard of anyone hacking into a phone system, so I pay credit card bills that way.  I have quite a few toll-free numbers stored in my head.  I can enter the credit card number without looking, along with the PIN.  If they wouldjn’t change that stupid 3-digit code on the back each time they send a new card, I would make the effort to remember that too.

I remember the numbers to several friends, the renal specialist, ophthalmologist, chiropractor, oncologist, cable company, taxi, my parents (home and cell), the transit office, my landlord, bank (the main branch and the toll-free number to check my balance), my checking account number, and the number for the time and temperature. 

That last one I've had memorized since I was a kid.  On snow days, we called it over and over to make sure the temperature hadn't risen above freezing.

What?  You can’t do that?  Now it’s my turn to feel sorry for you.

There are several other numbers I remember most of, which gets me some interesting wrong places the first time or two I guess.

I’ve heard people say, “I lost my phone and it had all my numbers stored in it.”  You’ll never hear me say, “I lost my head and I had all my numbers stored in it.”  I do, but if I lose it, I won’t be able to talk.

Yesterday I activated a new card from a big box store.  There was a glitch and I had to enter it a second time.  After that, I had it memorized.  If I call it a few more times over the new couple of years, it’ll be stuck in there with the number for J C Penney.

Maybe all the memorization will keep my mind sharp well into old age.  Follow my blog for another 25 years and we’ll find out together!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Week of Coincidences. Or Are They?

This month is National Donate Life Month.  I promise, I didn’t schedule it for April, but the timing is perfect.  Just yesterday, I gave a speech for a Toastmasters International speech competition about waiting for and recieving a transplant.  I promise, I didn’t schedule the date for that round of the competition, either.

This coming Friday, April 6th, will be the 14th anniversary of my kidney/pancreas transplant.  I promise, I didn’t schedule that, either, though it would have been nice if I could have.  That was one of the points I mentioned in my speech—that you never know when “the call” will come when you’re waiting for a transplant.

I talked about my donor, a young man who died in an auto accident.  He’s my hero and I’ll never get to meet him.  But, I made an unwritten agreement with him to take care of his kidney and pancreas, to keep them alive.  In return, he keeps me alive.

As hard as I tried, the kidney only lasted five years.  The speech had to be 5-7 minutes in length, so I didn’t go into that.  Nor did I have time to mention the amazing woman who gave me one of hers that same year.  

I wanted to get them to sign the back of their license to be an organ donor, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

She’s a devout Catholic.  God told her to give me a kidney.  Of this, I am certain.  For the first few years, I had no idea why.  We had never met when she was instructed to do this for me.  How’s that for a miracle?

Once I started writing my memoir, a realization came to me.  Back when I was going through all those harrowing health issues, I asked over and over, “Why me?”  I was never a bully or especially arrogant.  Most people would have told you I was too nice to deserve that.  About halfway through the first draft of the book, I realized this story had to be told in first person by someone with the ability and desire to tell it.

But, I didn’t think actually talking about it to a room full of people would be part of God’s plan.  Wasn’t it enough to write the book, step back, and let people read it?  Apparently, it wasn’t.

Now I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do—writing and speaking.  Believe me, I’m just as (maybe even more) surprised as anyone.  Those who knew me in high school and college can tell you that, aside from being a bit of a smartass, I wasn’t one to draw attention to myself.  Everything I’ve been through has toughened me up, even enough to get over stage fright. 

Fourteen years after getting a second chance at life, I’m feeling more alive than ever.

Three separate events with a common theme converge in one week—National Donate Life Month, my 14th “re-birthday,” and inspiring a room full of strangers with my story.  It’s not coincidence.  Of that, I’m certain.