Kahneman describes our remembering self as the inner storyteller, curating not only the past narrative, but herding us into a future based on the anticipation of creating new memories. This is exactly why we like going away on holiday, Kahneman explains. People want lives with good stories. Or at the very least, interesting.
I don’t recall the difficulty my father had breathing on the long haul to Lisbon, but I see him propped up in his five-star hotel bed, the oxygen tank an off-note in the otherwise elegant room. The Portuguese doctor saying with unremarkable prescience that he will soon be dead if he does not stop smoking.
Perhaps I had heard the word before but now it is imprinted: emphysema. Fingers stained yellow by years of tamping down his pipe are splayed on white sheets; tubes trailing from his nose like silicone snot. It is a complicated mix: revulsion and shame.
He recovers, at least sufficiently, to attend the conference. While the men talk market share and sales propositions, the wives are taken on sightseeing trips in and around Lisbon. Sintra’s palaces, particularly Pena Palace – its bright yellow Moorish turrets and domes ornate icing on a pretty confection – evoke nothing short of awe in my parochial eyes.
Then the conference ends, and it is just the three of us. We revisit the Lisbon sights, taking photos from the ramparts of Castelo de São Jorge; the monochromatic swirl of Cascais’ pretty cobbled streets. We eat lobster and Portuguese seafood rice. We are, for the last time, a happy family.
When I finally return to Portugal, I am 56, two years older than the age my father died. My husband and I check into Hotel das Amoreiras, a jewel box of a hotel overlooking the Jardim das Amoreiras, an oasis shaded by ginkos and maple trees, yet strolling distance from the buzzing bars and restaurants of Principe Real.