The Elephant

4 September 2020

The elephant in the room finally came and introduced herself to me. I was just minding my own business, doing what I always do and into my head walks this memory and says ‘Hi, . . . remember me?’ and I was like ‘WTF! I don’t know you. Get outta here!’

It was such a shocking memory, there was no way. I even googled ‘phantom memories in post-menopausal women’. But every search result was marked phantom. In fact they all professed that during menopause one’s memory is not so good, but afterwards it usually becomes more reliable.

The memory involved me listening in, probably undetected, to my mother talking about me to another women. I thought it may have been my Aunty Marge, my father’s sister, or possibly Aunty Ruth, my mother’s good friend. But it may well have been someone I was not familiar with. The thing I remember her saying was that I was mildly retarded!

It did not seem possible that this could be true. I have worked with, and known, retarded people. You can see when someone is retarded; if not immediately, then definitely after speaking to them.

But can you really see yourself.

All my life, family and friends have been telling me I’m crazy.

And many times complete strangers have reached out to me – maybe it was obvious to them.

Yet I have always done well at school. I have read like the proverbial bookworm, ever since I learnt to read. I even achieved a university exemption in Matric. But it may be possible that there could be other forms of being retarded that do not involve the intellect.

After thinking deeply about this, I thought about autism. I know autistic people are extremely introverted. I remember being that way as a child. I always walked with my eyes fixed on the ground in front of me at school. Even today I am a very reclusive person. So I googled autism. Everything I read was like a description of who I am, almost like the story of my life. Then I switched to looking at google images for autism, wanting to see if autistic people looked different from ‘normal’ people.

What I found was astounding. At least 50% of the images involved jigsaw puzzles! From as far back as I could remember, right up until she got sick, my mother would have me doing jigsaw puzzles with her. My sisters would also help sometimes, but her and I always did them together. But as I got better at it, she would ‘allow’ me to finish them alone.

This got me really thinking. I started seriously scratching for memories. Eventually I remembered more and more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of who I was, so that I was able to fill in the gaps intuitively. What follows is what I believe to be approximately the real history of my life.