Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The Man With No Past

When I was a kid I used to get slightly envious of those kids at school who had a plaster cast on an arm or leg. I think it was because I wanted to know what it felt like. It was a life experience that I was lacking and would have liked to have known about, preferably without having felt too much pain though I accept that that would defeat the object somewhat. It was also a feeling that I felt quite guilty about as it trivialised the pain that someone else was going through. But then I was a child and therefore susceptible to childish emotions.

Many years later, in September last year, I dislocated my collarbone, my first proper skeletal injury. Despite the discomfort I enjoyed the experience of having to learn how to do everyday day things differently and this, for me, was a vindication of how I felt all those years ago.

Last night those same feelings came back as I watched a TV program called The Man With No Past about a London man of 25, David Fitzpatrick, who lost his memory. Motor movements and skills such as football and swimming remained but he had no recollection of any specific experiences. He could remember none of his family or friends, including his daughter from a failed relationship. He couldn't be sure of the truth of anything he was told about any subject.

Now, I should state that there is no way I would swap places with David. I treasure my family and friends and am aware that we are the sum of our experiences and that those experiences, good or bad, provide us with memories that define how we feel and act. I can't begin to imagine the horror David felt and must surely continue to feel.


Wouldn't it be, well, something, if we could just start again? If we could rid ourselves of the neuroses picked up in our formative years that will plague us through life and actually choose who we wanted to be? David was, by all accounts, a bit of a git before he suffered amnesia. Now he isn't. He had an alcohol problem borne of an unhappiness with aspects of his life and he was an imposition on his friends and their families. Now, everything he does is a new experience and he is of an age to really appreciate those experiences, to understand how important they are in a way that a child never can. He appreciates life in a way no-one else can understand. The evident joy of his "first" swim in the sea was so touching, he matched the wonder of a child with the articulacy of an adult and it is this that I'm envious of. Nothing else.

He's now writing a book about his life and I can't wait to read it. Good luck David.


Anonymous said...

you have no idea how this destroys peoples lives, since this has happened to someone very close to me, I would not wish it on my worst eneny. I hope you never wish again that this is a good thing that cold happen.

Ian said...

I'm sorry about your friend's/relative's condition but I think you misunderstand my post. Nowhere do I state that I believe that this is "a good thing", in fact I clearly state that there is "no way I would swap places with David" and that I can't "imagine the horror David felt and must surely continue to feel". I wouldnt wish David's condition upon anyone.