Every 5,000 Days

Speech #17 - August 23, 2012

Marilu Henner, one of the stars from the TV series Taxi, has what’s known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where she can recall specific information of every day of her life since the age of eleven.

A 13-year cicada has a life cycle of 5,000 days.

What do you get when you combine Marilu Henner and a cicada? Essentially, me.

I have Highly Selective Autobiographical Memory, where I can only recall events exactly 5,000 days apart.

I was born, Monday, November 30, 1953. 1:57 AM. That’s a solid fact. You can look it up. But I know it, because I was there.

It was tough being born. Not only did I have to wait nine months, but the doctor forgot to tell me the same date he told my parents, and I didn’t get the word until almost two weeks had gone by. Let me tell you, I was not happy, and I came out screaming. I settled down a bit once I demanded and got something to drink. I was pretty thirsty, but it had taken a toll, and I pretty much slept off the rest of the day.

I don’t remember anything after that, but my next distinct memory was Wednesday, August 9, 1967, 5,000 days later. I was working a dead end job as a Local Media Delivery Specialist, bringing important information to dozens of people in my community. You might consider this to be a dream job, but the life of a Sacramento Bee Paperboy was not all it was cracked up to be. Oh, there were good times, but there were bad times as well. Whether dodging cars on the busy Boulevard, or facing the fury of a California thunderstorm, life was always an adventure. But no greater threat exposed itself than on that fateful day, when Brutus, the world’s meanest doberman pinscher, decided to break free of his restraints, and hunt me down.

Brutus taunted me as I tossed the family’s newspaper onto the porch, but I felt relatively safe, knowing that an industrial class chain kept him at an appropriate distance. Nice doggie. Man’s Best Friend, right? Wrong.

I spied the escaped Brutus when it was too late, he had already launched himself like a rocket when he spied me. Hitting the pedals, I thought I was free and clear, until I felt the sharp spikes of his clenching jaw close in on my tender buttocks. For a brief few moments, Brutus and I were one, he was practically airborne as he refused to relinquish his grip. But I did break free, and delivered the remainder of my route without sitting on the bike saddle.

I’m told a few important things happened during the next 5,000 days. There was that whole high school and college thing, I got married, I got a job at DWR, I had a kid. I don’t know; I don’t remember. What I do remember is Friday, April 17, 1981, 5,000 days A.B. After Brutus.

The physical wounds from Brutus had healed, the emotional scars remained. I remembered it like it was just the day before. But this was a new day, two days before Easter, Good Friday... It was anything but good. I guess I hadn’t learned a valuable lesson from Brutus: dogs are evil. Yet we had one: Fido.

Well, Fido wasn’t really evil, he was actually quite friendly. As a rather large Irish Setter, he was normally relegated to the back yard, and loved to run and play. But in the house he became a bull in a china shop, knocking into the furniture, and what he didn’t bump into directly, his excited tail took care of the rest. Nothing was safe, including our dear baby boy’s first Easter Basket, which we had just assembled. One swipe of the tail, and the contents scattered across the room. Fido’s only thought was to lay into the basket’s remains like there was no tomorrow: first went the marshmallow peeps, then the jelly beans, finally the chocolate rabbit, along with a large dose of green plastic grass. It proved too much for him. Dogs, chocolate and green plastic grass don’t mix well, and what goes down, must come up, and up it came all over the new Easter outfit we had laid out for our one year old son. Why that had to happen on my 10,000th day, I don’t know. I’d rather forget it.

But a sad reminder of our history of dogs and chocolate occurred next on the 15,000th day of my life, Sunday, December 25, 1994. Christmas Day. We were anticipating a nice quiet family Christmas in our new home (so I’d been told.) As we unwrapped the presents, much to my horror and disgust were not one, not two, not three, but four solid, milk chocolate replicas of my brother-in-law’s late Great Dane, Dana. At least, that’s what they started out to be. What they ended up being was four packages of flowing goo, which had melted under the hot Christmas tree lamps, seeped out from their packaging and virtually destroyed our new home’s carpet. Even from the grave, a dog was determined to curse us.

But... day 20,000; I shudder to think about it. Tuesday, September 2, 2008. My parents’ 57th Anniversary. My wife and I had just returned from a wonderful weekend in Las Vegas, and the furthest thing from my mind was dogs. It was the most horrible, most gruesome experience of all. I can’t even talk about it... so I won’t.

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