One thing a stroke left intact is my memory, thank goodness. Mostly I mean my long-term memory; my short term still needs some work.

I’ve written before about a night just a few months after I left the hospital. It was a night my brain was working overtime to keep my long term memory sharp and in focus.

Out of the blue, I had a sudden burst of memories cascade into my mind. It wasn’t one memory at a time, it was multitudes of memories all at once. These memories were of all stages in my life, going as far back as things I remember from before I could talk. I saw my life as a continuum and not just a series of random events. I saw that no matter what I seemed to be on the outside, inwardly I have always been pretty what I am now.

Don’t ask me to explain how I mean that; I can’t.

That night was jarring, but wasn’t frightening or disturbing.

My memories come back with crystal clarity and detail and in high definition resolution. It was kind of liberating and invigorating. I’ve checked with people about my memory and told I recall details that had been lost to the one I was asking. I’ve verified some memories with my mom and it checks out, like the time I described being made to wear a little red snowsuit and the layout of the home we lived in. I asked
about a TV program that used to air in those days, The Woody Woodbury show. He was a popular TV personality at the the time that nobody remembers.

Nobody remembers but me. I’ve also verified his existence by googling him (it’s kind of funny; the word Google brings back memories of a newspaper comic strip I used to read as a child, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith).

I can usually draw on my memories without much difficulty, and often they come when I’m not trying to recall anything in particular.

Last night, out of the blue, I thought about Angela.

I spent much of my childhood and all my adolescence on Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, just outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. When I was a sophomore in high school, Angela’s family moved in around the block.

I don’t remember how we met; it just always seemed like I’d always known her. I thought she was very pretty, and somehow we fell into the most unusual and meaningful relationship I’ve ever been in.

We were inseparable—we spent all our free time together, and it was always quality time. We knew each other’s schedules and when either of us left the house we would go to the other’s house and wait out in front.

I always was completely comfortable with Angela, and this is where the unusual part of the relationship comes in: although we spent many, many hours together, we very rarely spoke to each other.

Although there was a school bus that picked up and dropped off in our neighborhood, we always walked to school and back together, maybe about a three mile round trip. We would often do our homework together, and on weekends we spent days just walking. She always walked on my right side.

This was year round, and it was in Cheyenne, up high in the Rocky Mountains. The wind blows almost every day, and it was high wind. In the winters were below zero temperatures and blizzard conditions. But there weren’t many days that were too harsh for us to spend time together.

But we never spoke more than a few short sentences; most of the time we spent together was in complete silence. I always felt I knew what she was thinking and I know she felt the same about me. I would catch her gaze or she would catch mine and we communicated with our eyes.

She is the one in my life I have been the most compatible with. We never so much as held hands, but the feelings ran deep and strong.

And then one day Angela was gone, after just a few months. I went to her house and it was vacant. In the military, you may be shipped out and relocated, almost literally on a moment’s notice. She left before I could find out where she was going.

Those memories bring back the feelings I had—they can be that sharp in my mind. I can almost feel her presence, right alongside me. I don’t know if it’s that way for other people, but it can get pretty intense for me. It almost seems my mind kept itself together so I would never forget the experiences that made me who I am. I can only hope Angela remembers me. Other than the piece of her I still and always will
carry in my heart, all I have left of her is her photo in a high school yearbook.

People always tell me what a great memory I have. I myself wish it was better, but at least that stroke didn’t wipe my hard drive clean. I kind of feel like my memory was preserved so I would never forget experiencing my time with Angela. I felt this memory so strongly, so vividly and so intensely there was no way I could go on without writing about it.

I wish every survivor could be as lucky as I’ve been, to have precious memories left intact.

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab and, also, welcomes reader comments. Email him at Read more articles by Isaac here;

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.