Coffee! I mean a small coffee… Darn it, it happened again! This blog entry could also be called “Growing Older Phenomena #492”. One of the most annoying things about getting on in age (I hate that phrase, but it applies more and more on a daily basis) is how my memory is spotty and getting spottier by the minute. It’s weird too, because I can remember conversations word for word that happened five years ago, and what I ordered for lunch yesterday, but not the names of the people my husband just introduced me to. For the fourth time. Really, how many times can you get away with, “I’m sorry, I’m really bad with names”? Words come and go; and not even obscure words either. Sometimes I cannot finish a sentence that should end with something like “miso soup” just because I can’t come up with it as the sentence is already coming out of my mouth and the image is clearly in my head. Sometimes, the wrong word will come out of my mouth (“We just chose the miso soup for the house; it’s a beautiful light brown”) and I won’t even notice until the person with whom I am speaking looks at me funny. It’s truly bizarre. And scary. And embarrassing.
It’s getting so bad, I have downloaded several apps onto my smartphone and put them in a folder I call “Brain Train”. These apps are supposed to be challenges and games that improve skills like focus, memory, language, problem solving, attention, flexibility, visual spatial ability, IQ, creativity, concentration, executive function (what the hell is that??) and even will-power. All that for free and in five minutes a day. I should be good for a while… if I remember to play every day.
I have my own way of organizing all the scheduled events in my life. I mostly keep them in my head, and up until recently, this has worked well. I would like to blame the fact that I am juggling a lot of balls as far as claims on my time are concerned. After all, I teach in a public school, which means I have regularly scheduled meetings and lots of surprise ones; I teach as an adjunct professor, which means that my schedule or class location can change as often as every few weeks; hubby and I take ballroom dancing classes, which also have to be scheduled each week; and I have tons of other things to do, places to go and people to see. But I no longer have kids at home to impact my schedule with sports and doctor appointments and “play dates”. So in reality, it should be a bit easier to remember the events in my life.
But I am finding it more and more embarrassing when I space out a planned meeting at school, or am late for a dentist appointment I forgot about, in spite of the reminder phone call, email and text message; even more so because I work with some young people who are highly addicted to organization and calendars to the point of being ridiculously anal about recording and color-coding their plans (you know who you are and don’t make fun of me and refer to this blog posting when we go back to work in September. Remember one day, you too will be old and forgetful- mark my words well, young grasshopper). And so I have started to write all of these things down. I write them in my plan book, record them on my phone calendar, or on a birthday calendar to inform me of upcoming special days for my loved ones, and on an app that sends me reminders and encouraging messages like Dream Live Love, and on notes to myself that look just like post-its all over the desktop of my computer. Then I forget to check them. Oy.
I will admit that sometimes I forget on purpose. For example, if you catch me off-guard and ask me how old I am, I have to actually do the math before I answer. If I meet someone I don’t like, I am not beyond forgetting them completely as soon as we part, and having them remind me next time that we have met before. But these are not a real problem.
I have a lot to look forward to. My mother, who is twenty five years older than me and we all know how damned fast the last twenty five years went, forgets entire conversations from one day to the next. She still functions completely in her life, and is healthy and happy; but it takes all of my patience when she tells me a whole story with four-part harmony that I already heard yesterday. And quite possibly the day before or the week before or all of the above. I already tell my kids that when (not if) I start doing that, they should give me a signal of some kind that means “you already said that, possibly many times”. I promise not to deny it or get mad.
I have been through all the fear related to this issue and attempts to stop/change/fix it that I am sure many women my age go through: Do I have early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia?? Is this a result of some of my youthful adventures/experimentations/indiscretions?? (All of which I will deny, by the way) If I take this daily cocktail of resveratrol, gingko biloba, ginseng, Omega 3, vitamin B and ginger, will it help?? I have come to believe that, unfortunately, forgetting is part of the aging process- like accepting the dreaded phrase “middle-aged” and finally agreeing to color my graying hair. I just got off of the phone with my mother who is a bit distraught that she, at seventy-six years old, has just been given a card from the NYC DFTA (Department for the Aged). She said that the term “senior citizen” doesn’t sound so bad anymore. Yep, a lot to look forward to.
My brother believes my “brain issues” are related to the many chemicals to which we were all exposed in the 70’s- exterminator spray to get rid of cockroach infestations, mercury in the thermometers, lead in the paint, Benson and Hedges 100 cigarettes, early plastics, preservatives in food…he is probably right. But maybe it’s just aging synapses after all. Or a little of both.