'I Forgot to Remember': Ada Comstock Discusses Living With Amnesia in New Book

Veronica Brown '15 Assistant News Editor 

Su Meck ‘A14 doesn’t remember anything from before she was 22 years old in 1988. One day, as she lifted up her infant son, the ceiling fan fell down, hitting her on the head. After her condition stabilized at the hospital, Meck was unable to recall anything from before the accident, including who her husband was, the fact that she had children, or how to read or write. 26 years later, Meck has vastly improved her original post-accident vocabulary of fewer than one hundred words. Her new book, “I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia,” details her experiences dealing with a Traumatic Brain Injury and figuring out how to live a new life when she can’t remember the one she had in progress.

The road to Meck’s memoir began in 2011 when Daniel de Visé, who would later serve as the researcher for her memoir, wrote an article about Meck for The Washington Post. The human-interest story focused on her graduation from Montgomery College, the community college she attended before coming to Smith as an Ada Comstock Scholar. De Visé’s piece ran on the first page of the paper, and Meck immediately received a flood of positive feedback and offers for book contracts. At first, she was hesitant to write a memoir; she does not likes to be the center of attention. But she finally decided to tell her story to bring awareness to the problems of people who suffer from TBI. She loved de Visé’s article but had concerns that many readers  thought her husband, Jim, “was a saint…and everything was rosy.” She wanted to illustrate that dealing with the disease takes a lot of patience and is usually not an easy or immediate fix.

Meck wrote everyday from January 2012 to the summer of 2013 while also beginning her studies of music and book studies at Smith. In hindsight, she realizes that these two projects were a lot to take on at the same time, but as she explains in her memoir, her life has never been dull. Sue Adler, Meck’s professor and advisor at Montgomery College, encouraged her to apply to Smith. After losing her job as an aerobics instructor, Meck began taking classes at Montgomery College at the urging of her aunt and uncle, who worked at the school. Soon after her accident, she had attempted going back to college, but it didn’t go well. Meck will graduate this spring, but will not walk because she will be attending her daughter’s graduation from Barnard the same day. It seems fitting that a mother and daughter, a pair that Meck describes as more like sisters or best friends, graduate from two of the Seven Sisters on the same day.

Many have remarked on Meck’s fabulous sense of humor, both in her book and in person. Although Meck places a great value on humor, she still thinks of herself as a “literal-minded person.” She explains that safter the accident, “People would laugh because I would state the obvious, but I wasn’t meaning to be funny.” She learned to welcome this positive response, and acquired her sense of humor from her children and extended family. When writing her memoir, she thought it was important to incorporate humor because she didn’t want to use the book “to be poor, pitiful me [but] to look at the problems of TBI survivors.” Meck hopes to continue writing. She would like to write about her time at Smith and also has an idea for a children’s book series that could help explain TBI to young readers. She emphasizes that she can only speak about her experiences, but she hopes that she can encourage others to speak up about TBI.