We were both there. But you remember this thing; I remember the other thing. Is one of us wrong and the other right? Not necessarily. I think we’re both entitled to our memory of events. Our own perspective based on where we were in the world of our heads at the time.
I raise this issue because Brain in a Jar is ready to launch, and when it does, my memories of my father will come to bear. Each story in the book represents a moment in time with Beau. My time.
Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.
—TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, The Glass Menagerie
Trying to capture a moment of a memory–in a cohesive narrative fashion–is crazy-making work. Indeed, I just about went insane writing about my memories of my father losing his. In the process, a story was born. One that leaves people out, one that blends events, and one that captures an emotional truth more than facts.
My memory. My father. My story.
You might remember Dr. Beauregard Lee Bercaw and his brain in a jar differently. Maybe the brain was in a can or a wine glass or not there at all (as he did eventually get rid of it.) And maybe Beau was your husband or your friend or your doctor or stepfather or your patient or your ex-husband or your brother-in-law or your cousin or in your Rotary Club.
But Brain in a Jar tells how I, Nancy Stearns Bercaw, eventually came to understand my life with my unusual father. It’s a love story of how one little girl learned to make sense of the most complicated man she ever knew. A man who filled her head with ideas, adventure and imagination–perhaps, inadvertently, to prepare her for his demise from Alzheimer’s. And, maybe even to help stop the disease from taking root in her own mind.
“Use your head for something other than a hat rack,” Beau used to admonish me when my thinking was sloppy.
Brain in a Jar is the proof that I took his words literally in order to tell my tale. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Ole Buzzard Tail