I remembered the day my father died. The smell of freshly mown lawn on the breeze triggered it. I inhaled until my lungs felt itchy and full of pollen.

Large overgrown cemetery. Bright green grass. A contrast to grey sky and grey stones, despite the fact that summer had arrived. Mother wore a black skirt that flapped in the wind. Black? Or is that just what you were supposed to wear to a funeral then? But I remembered the flapping noise it made as I walked alongside her. And the way the wind whipped around the mourners, a broken mass of black and grey against the youth and beauty of grass. Summer beginning anew, marked with upturned earth and mortality.

“Hold my hand, Mary dear,” Mother had said. And I did hold her hand. Didn’t I?

Did I throw a fist full of dirt onto his casket? Was it even a casket? Maybe he was cremated? Memories. Memories are a problem.

But that would’ve been 200 years ago, I couldn’t be sure. My father long dead, and mother too. Dead before the prolonging of life was normal. I’d been the first of a generation who submitted to it without the indignities of being chased by protesters at clinics. My parents considered it taboo, a selfish desire for something that people had no right to.

I sympathized with the protesters. They weren’t so much against the process itself, they were against the lack of choice for those who couldn’t afford it. Not a problem now. But then, a sharp divide between those who could and those who couldn’t. A divide that had been there long before the aim in life was to keep it going, but a divide that was exacerbated.

My parents were both academics. Father, an applied physicist. Mother . . .

Regardless, it was a choice for them to let go, given their means.

Did I throw a fist full of dirt onto his casket? Was it even a casket? Maybe he was cremated? Memories. Memories are a problem.

I’d stored what remained of mine in a bank eighty years earlier, but by that point some of them were so degraded it was impossible to tell which fragments were real and which were figments. Fabrications implanted by the mind’s desire to lessen the experience of trauma and pain. Hide the shame caused by one’s own actions against others. It was all about protecting the ego whether you were victim or tormenter.

Life is for living, my dead mother said. And I’d lived.

I banked them despite the degradation so I might have something to recount. The old memories would fade as the input became too much for the limited storage space of the mind. Better to have something fragmented and unreliable than nothing at all.

I could visit the bank, plug in. Watch old memories like films, or at least clips of films, as they passed through my brain. Eyes flickering, like in REM sleep, behind closed lids. But often, old and new converged to form something incoherent. Even more so if I tried to retrieve something from the distant past. It all came in particles, nothing whole. Even faces.

Mother had been eighty when she’d passed, a greying old fool who refused any medical attention at the end.

“Let me sleep in peace,” she’d said. “I’m going to go with dignity, in my own time.”

But when I tried to remember her face it was a blur on top of a pale wilted body. Even when I did plug in and draw on images of her they were distorted, and sometimes, she had different hair, or eyes. Had she been blond? Naturally?

I did remember things now and then without the bank. An image here, a color there, the throwing of dirt onto a casket. There would be a day, soon, when my parents would be nothing more than fragments on playback mode when I plugged in. No images or colors ever springing to mind. Their faces already gone, what would be next?

The only distant face that ever came through clearly was Billy’s. Billy, my first husband. He’d been a stout man who wore his beard thick and his shirts bold. He was distinct. And my memories recalled him that way. Billy had also opted to extend his life, both of us with some romantic ideal of being together forever. But Billy had died in a plane crash more than 150 years ago. Grief, a less common occurrence by that point, hit with an almighty whack. Accidents happen, people said, accidents happen. And they did.

Billy and I nearly had an accident once. A different kind. We’d decided not to have children. Both agreed that when it came to it, if our children opted to die, we weren’t sure we could deal with it. Watching them age and wither, like my parents. Equally stubborn, dying of something preventable.

I wasn’t pregnant.

“That was a close one,” Billy said. He’d stroked my shoulder. “We should be more careful.”

From then on, we were. I cried after Billy went to sleep that night. For the child that had temporarily sprang into existence. For all the children I’d never have. At least, I think I cried.

I never had that problem again. By my second marriage, a license was required, by law, to have a child, and even then it was difficult. With the endless extension of life there had to be some way to control the population beyond relying on mishap, accidental death, and suicide. The waiting lists were long and operated, for the most part, on a one out, one in basis.

I could visit the bank, plug in. Watch old memories like films, or at least clips of films, as they passed through my brain. Eyes flickering, like in REM sleep, behind closed lids.

My second husband, Al, had chosen to age and die but he wasn’t interested in having children either. I didn’t mind being with him right until the end, despite the fact that I was younger, albeit not in years. He’d been a fighter when it came to making the most of the time he had. I couldn’t remember what he’d died of. Cancer? Heart disease? It had been something preventable. The specifics were in the bank. I wasn’t that keen on playing back bad memories, unless I was having a really bad time of it. I went for the good. I must have had good times with Al.

After Al, I decided not to be with anyone who wasn’t sticking around. The third and fourth husbands are both still here, somewhere. Maybe? Trevor was a hundred years ago and Duncan was sixty. Duncan I could remember, good and bad. Trevor was more of a drunken blur, a hangover. I’d banked the time with Trevor when I’d banked everything else. A matter of necessity rather than a preconceived notion of nostalgia. The headaches and fatigue indicating cognitive overload were excruciating. But after I’d done it, I was glad. I wished I’d done it earlier.

I hadn’t banked Duncan yet. There was still time. I could go another twenty or so years following the new standard guidelines, before the need arose, but he was fading. And sometimes he replaced Billy in long-ago memories that he had no place in.

There hadn’t been anyone since Duncan. Because now, now I was content to be alone. Every man I met, every experience I undertook, every dinner date, walk in the park, movie night, and kiss, would make it harder to hold on to everything that had gone before. And I wanted to keep it.

I knew what my mother would say. Something my mother had said to me as a child. I played the moment over sometimes in the bank, though it always faded eventually.

A picnic. Bright summer day. Mother and daughter pouring nonexistent tea into plastic cups for dolls and bears. I was afraid to join the other children, clinging to my mother.

“Life is for living, Mary,” my mother had said. “Go and live it.” And I’d rushed to the other girls in their pinafores and offered them the tea.

Life is for living, my dead mother said. And I’d lived. Was living. Wasn’t I?