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.