At age 10, Suzanne forgot her homework at home. Mrs. Montgomery looked down her nose and said, “Don’t lie.” When words welled up, Suzanne choked them back. A burn started in her cheeks and then set her body aflame. The next day, she brought the homework to Mrs. Montgomery, who sniffed it like something rotten before slipping it into the trash.
At age 19, Suzanne forgot her wallet in the cab. There were three credit cards, easily cancelled, about $20 in cash, and a lucky dollar coin tucked in a billfold with Susan B. Anthony’s sharp, determined face under the word “Liberty.” Suzanne called Yellow Taxi, but the operator said, didn’t she remember the sign on the back of the headrest, the one that said that company wouldn’t be liable for losses of any kind?
At 28, Suzanne forgot her daughter in the grocery cart. After just two hours of sleep, she ran to the store to get milk and then suddenly needed to pee. Grace happily gnawed a red apple with gums and baby teeth, holding it between two tiny hands. Suzanne sat on the toilet, the seat cooling her bottom, savoring the time alone. While washing her hands, it occurred to her she might be forgetting something. She opened the bathroom door, and there was Grace, giggling at a cashier, who turned and gave her a scalding glare.
At 55, Suzanne forgot where she left her car in the parking garage. She called her son-in-law to ask for help, who said “It’s white with the Peace-Love-Music bumper sticker, Suzanne.” Of course she remembered the sticker from that Carole King concert, her first real night out with girlfriends after the divorce. She wandered each floor of the garage, pressing the unlock button and hoping the car would beep-beep, remembering the wine and “I Feel the Earth Move” under the stars. A parking attendant stopped to ask why she was singing aloud and then helped her find her car.
At 70, Suzanne forgot to meet her friends for coffee. She arrived more than an hour late and just couldn’t believe she had the time wrong. Madeline and Jacklyn patiently showed her that yes, it was about 3 o’clock on both her phone and her wristwatch, but they had planned to meet at two. When Suzanne also realized she had left her wallet at home, Jacklyn said she’d cover the tab.
At 73, Suzanne forgot what Grace looked like. It was not even a minute, Grace told herself. She was standing a few feet away and wearing sunglasses, so of course Mom might not recognize her. Then, suddenly she said, “Oh hello, Grace!” like turning a corner. Later, Grace called her best friend to share, but they both decided she was probably overreacting.
At 74, Suzanne forgot to pay her taxes. She showed the late notice to Grace and said, “I don’t know what happened.” Mom’s pleading look told Grace that she was earnestly confused. Grace wrapped her mom in a wool cardigan, handed her a cup of tea, and wrote a check to pay the back-taxes. Later, going through the mail, Grace found three past-due utility bills and a final notice on Mom’s mortgage statement.
At 76, Suzanne forgot to say something nice to the young woman who visited her. Friendly faces were pleasant company, though she was never sure who they were. She tried to make small talk, usually telling them something about that terrible 4th grade teacher or that Carole King concert. She only thought to smile, though, after the person had already left. Grace walked out of the nursing home, got into her car, and cried.