Walker's Memory Disorder in The Weight of Memory

I look up everything I can about memory. I am starting to

understand. This is what I learn. There are three major types of long-term

memory: semantic, procedural, and episodic.

     Semantic memory is your general knowledge of the world, the

kind of things you learn in school like facts, language, and concepts.     

     Procedural memory is for skills, how to do things, like riding a

bike, playing a sport, or learning to type.  

     Episodic memory is the memory of unique experiences that

happened in a particular time and particular place.

     Episodic memory is the kind of memory that is lost in psychogenic

or dissociative amnesia, the amnesia that Walker has, which is

extremely rare. It is the kind of amnesia that people, including

doctors, have trouble accepting because it is hard to understand how

someone can just say, “I don’t remember,” if he or she hasn’t suffered

a brain injury or if a neurologist can’t find anything on a brain scan

or if it isn’t Alzheimer’s.

     What people don’t realize is how much we take memory for

granted. That memory is a gift. That telling stories about your past is

a gift and how debilitating it is when you lose that—when you don’t

know who you are, who your first girlfriend was, who your friends

were in high school.

     I can’t imagine not remembering those days at the lake with my

father or the junior high choir with Leigh or tennis with Sarah.

     They come back for Walker, these memories, but then they go

away. Everything for him is transient. For him, it is better to live

in the present. Better not to hang onto material possessions or

friends. He knows his family or closest friends will find him. He’ll

see that look of recognition and he can fake it and if he keeps faking

it eventually he will start to feel the real feelings he must have had

before. He can feel when he loves someone. He may not know them

but he can feel love.

Favorite Books About Memory


Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr


The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond


Evening by Susan Minot


Searching for Memory by Daniel Schacter