Welcome to My Dotage, Mrs. Sawyer


Admission that one’s memory is fading, if not disintegrating, is perhaps one of the most challenging realities 0f getting older. Age, of course, refers to approaching or racing past the benchmark of sixty; suffering through a geriatric illness; or ability to get a “seniors” discount without presenting any identification. Naturally, all three apply in my case, although the third is an unfortunate perk. Memory loss itself was just never in the the plan.

As a child, my recall was always exceptional. School seemed to be a breeze, as I could always remember even the smallest of details from reading, listening, and watching. There was a history class in high school that contradicted my boast but, as they say in the South: ”that don’t make no never mind!” Nonetheless that only meant that I had to study and review if I were to get an A.

Music was always my passion. I anxiously would listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top Forty” every week. Usually, after hearing the first few notes of a tune, I could share its name, the week that it peaked, and where it placed in the year-end rankings. I always hoped, however, that I might block from my grey matter any hits by Ann Murray, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and similar fare. Yes, the recent drama in the Kasem household is tragic and unfortunate.

When I entered the work force, I found that I could easily recall names, faces, addresses, and other details. If referred to, such information always put a client to ease as it subtly would stroke his/her ego. I often could mention what they were wearing when we met, but kept mum with that trivia. Most people usually found that a bit creepy and that it implied some sort of stalking or invasive file-keeping.

The gift of such an ability just made everyday life easier. Several employers though would always sarcastically (with a hint of cattiness) retort with something like: “it’ll be tragic and ironic when it ceases”.

Such reactions sealed my fate. I can no longer tell you: what I had for dinner last Tuesday, what I wore yesterday, or why I simply cannot place certain faces. Such deterioration is horrifying. Writing a blog post may require double the previous time and effort. I cower in conversation, on my cellphone or in person, with self-consciousness and anxiety. Most people never notice but I do, and must face it many times each day. Thank God that I can still shout out “Jeopardy” answers correctly and with decorum.

I realize that this condition affects most folks but I find it depressing, frustrating, and occasionally debilitating. It is what it is. I think.

If only we all had internal hard-drives with unlimited storage capability (and not with those silly “clouds!”). We could back-up all the details of our lives, giving meaning to statements such as “he/she has a mind like a computer”. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Sawyer, would likely agree. My memory frightened her.

In my case, the one exception may be when a nurse attaches a morphine drip to an IV. I can be oblivious and carefree. Just give me a “Law and Order” marathon and I am good to go. At least that is usually one of the few laughable situations when recounting a hospital stay … if I remember correctly.

Denial flourishes when I ponder this unfortunate stage in life.

The Wait


For over a year I’ve thought I had come to terms with needing a heart transplant. I even anticipated a vast improvement in life’s quality. And on some days, as if the Universe were throwing me a bone, I’d display the symptoms of being excited. The irony, of course, was that I rarely showed such emotion and had grown uncertain whether or not I knew what excitement was.

So here I sit, at my cluttered desk, feeling quite frustrated and anxious, if not even angry. I never really display any symptoms of being angry either, so my demons are usually faced alone.

This afternoon, I realized that I have now spent 391 days waiting… for a determination regarding my “disability”, then to go through endless tests to assess my candidacy for a transplant, and now waiting for a new heart while I am surely decaying and withering. I do, as you expected, wither in private. By “waiting” I also include the uncertainty of whether or not I will survive the wait.

For an obsessive control maven, such as I am, it is excruciating to maintain faith in the unknown. The outcome might influence how I spent time, which is now a matter of waiting and napping.

Providence certainly has an endless cache of torture techniques and accoutrements which, true to form, I ponder by myself.

This painting has always intrigued me. Was it the mythology of Prometheus? Or the success or quality of the painting? Or the mixed color palettes that Monsieur Lair blended?

This afternoon, I realized what the intrigue is. It’s the generous use of fabric.

Such is my life.

(Image: “The Torture of Prometheus” by Jean-Louis-Cesar Lair , 1819.)

Almost Home


View it as a warning,  rebirth announcement, or a  by-product of uncontrollable joy: I was alas discharged on this past most glorious Friday. I shall likely “go postal” at some point as the yet rancid dysfunction oozes from anointed pores. My unconventional wisdom suggests that I best resume my obsessive need to share my zany narratives shortly thereafter. Whenever out of commission, I return with a  manic exuberance that slithers  in and out of those  dreadful garden soirées on those nights of a hundred degrees. Part of the hospital strategy is to create a homesickness that trumps wellness and wisdom. I had floundered in the “Step Down Unit’s” Nadir Lounge and Juice bar. It was almost soothing to ponder flies, fleas, snakes, and the mundane operations that oil a tired bungalow’s rather cerebral ignition.

Now, of course,  God doth deliver my disability. In full force, one might observe that He stokes the fire to annoy that silly, yet sparkling fashion maven Beelzebub, who in the summertime drives the old Ice Cream Truck through the seedier parts of Fuquay-Varina. He looks for those fresh faces and unspoiled minds. His mouth waters at slight thoughts of the ingenuous progeny of preoccupied parents, sipping Manhattans while dressing for tonight’s soirée. The Dark One turns to the unspoiled children. There is no hurry. That lifeline was forfeited long before the Tea Party dominatrix sought the appropriate reality show that would propel her entire family into wealth and strong health.

Naturally, talk of any such lifeline is foolish, especially in my case and that of my cronies at UNC back in the seventies. We traded our innocent pink faces for a NuttyBuddy or Dreamsicle years ago when we were young and unprotective of our hearts.

(Image: “Monsieur” by Martin Battersby)