Memory Loss

Have you ever forgotten where you were parked?  The man who taught me the electrical trade is gone now.  I guess he won’t object to my telling this story.  His son is still alive, he’ll probably recognize this.

At one time Ewald had gone a very great many hours without sleep.  He was so tired that he decided to pull over and get some sleep.  He chose to do so in a movie theater.  He bought a ticket (they were considerably cheaper then) and went inside and slept.

When the theater closed, an usher came to wake him up.  He had slept through multiple showings.  When he woke up he couldn’t remember his name, the town he was in, what kind of car he drove, or where he had parked it.  And, he couldn’t remember where he lived.

He walked around outside the theater for a bit and finally came across a car that looked familiar.  He had keys in his pocket, so he got in and they fit.  It must be his car.  He drove around for awhile and noticed many signs with a town name on them, so he figured out where he was.

After some driving around town he saw a road that looked familiar, so he started to drive down that road.  After going quite a ways into the country side, he pulled into a driveway that turned out to be his.

He didn’t suffer any debilitating permanent damage from his memory loss, and he did remember his name, but after that he had difficulty staying awake while driving.  It wasn’t a terrible problem though.

He would fall asleep with his eyes open and continue driving; down the middle of the road.  When he met traffic, he would pull over to the side until it passed, then go back to the middle of the road.  He was able to navigate through turns in the road without trouble, all while asleep.  You could tell from his conversation when he was asleep.  It would turn nonsensical.

His wife had learned how to handle his condition (how many wives can do that?).  She told me never to wake him up by screaming or calling his name.  In that case he would wake up in a panic and drive off the road.  The proper way to wake him was to reach over and jiggle the steering wheel under his hands.  That would wake him up gently and everything would work out fine.

Ewald told me when he first noticed something was wrong.

He had been plowing in a field and fell asleep driving the tractor.  He drove erratically through the field and at least one fence, through a ditch and across a road, through the other ditch out into someone else’s field – plowing all the way.  He woke up when the tractor stopped.

I rode many a mile with him.  His body would stiffen and he didn’t blink.  I would follow his wife’s instructions and turn the wheel slightly.  He would wake and on we would go.

He was an excellent electrician, had a great sense of humor, and was utterly fearless.