Feed on

Uncle Steve Brain

It’s official: My son has my oldest brother’s brain. There are some exceptions, of course. He’s not quite as anxious, he’s chosen different sports to be competitive in, he’s more interested in music and foreign languages, and his affect is much less hyper.

Still, it’s my brother’s brain. I first thought it when he began asking me questions like how he’d know where to live when he grew up, as Steve used to worry as a child about knowing whom to marry. I thought it some more when he started getting interested in space, as Steve has been an avid follower of space flight and exploration his entire life. The suspicion deepened when his favorite subject in preschool this year was a two-week unit on the human body (Steve is a physician).  I became convinced when he began rattling off numbers and quantifying things all the time, as his obsession with putting a number on everything was just like conversing with my brother.

And my hypothesis was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt just before bedtime on Wednesday when a simple question about zoo camp (“Did you play with Gabrielle and Mark today?”) prompted him to tell me Mark’s birthday and telephone number. He asked Mark for both, and the numbers stuck in his brain from 11:45, when my mom picked him up from zoo camp,  until 8:45, when he finished brushing his teeth and we had our chat.

Perhaps this doesn’t sound too significant to you. Allow me to explain. I can remember some birthdays, but struggle with a great many. Is brother Perry the 17th or 18th? Friend Jennifer the 26th or 27th? Nephew the 18th or 19th? Birthday calendars and Facebook are my salvation on this front. And phone numbers? I am a reverse savant on phone numbers. I can remember mine (but not my old ones), my Mom’s, my Dad’s, Matt’s parents, my now deceased Bubbie’s and Zadie’s, my brothers’, and 5 out of 7 digits of several more, not necessarily in their correct order. If someone tells me a number and I don’t have a pen and paper, I’m doomed because I cannot remember a number long enough to dial it.

It’s hard to say with Matt. He certainly remembers dates in history and can memorize a series of seven digits, but he’s no savant either. I think by our first anniversary he was already struggling to remember if it was the 17th or 18th (it’s the 17th, honey), and he doesn’t think much of birthdays because he doesn’t care about them. As for phone numbers, like 99% of Americans, he just uses his cell and therefore hasn’t had to remember one in a decade or more. According to my memory and his own report, he was “OK” at phone numbers, but nothing special.

Then there is Steve. Steve can rattle off the phone number of high school friends whose numbers he has not dialed in 30 years. He knows the phone number of his insurance agent off-hand. I’m sure he can call every relative, living or dead, who has had a phone line since 1969 or so. It’s the same with birthdays. The man is a walking, talking census record. Moreover, it’s not just that he can do these things, it’s that he automatically does them at every corner. If a casual conversation turns to, say, an event involving my great-grandparents, Steve will quickly and unthinkingly rattle off their birth dates, recall the year the said event took place, and then do the math on how old every participant in the story would have been at the time.

Simon has been building to this for a year or more. Every story about San Francisco or buying our house must have a date, and that date must correlate to our ages and the number of years before he was born. And now he’s hauling out the phone numbers! Wednesday night, when his (Steve again!) anxiety over bad thoughts arose when it was time to turn out the lights, I distracted him by telling him a friend’s phone number and saying I’d quiz him again when he woke up. Given this new number to memorize, his face lit up and the fear slipped away.

There’s a lot of me in Simon. There’s even more of Matt. Yet somehow, nearly every day he demonstrates that he is Steve Goldstein’s nephew.


One Response to “Uncle Steve Brain”

  1. blg says:

    What is Steve doing while Simon has his brain?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.