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Tales of Old Age Memory

Posted Jan 25 2012 8:30am

category_bug_journal2.gif On Monday at The Elder Storytelling Place, our friend William Weatherstone entertained us with a 17-year-old column from newspaper editor, Colin McKim, about “losing it” as we get older . A sample line or two:

”These days I find I can’t hold a phone number in my mind long enough to get it punched in. Somewhere between my eyes and my index finger I lose it, or part of it, which amounts to the same thing.

“And then there’s the mystery novel on the bedside table. Now that I am losing it, I understand why they call them mysteries.”

Which is pretty close to what a 90-something woman said that I read somewhere: she now owns only one book, an Agatha Christie mystery, because she never remembers whodunit so she can read it again and again.

I know what that woman and Colin mean; it works that way for me with any given Law & Order episode.

The comments on William's story were fun. This from Herm:

”For the past three weeks I've been looking for my dress shoes and wedding band. My shoes aren't lost nor is my wedding band. They are where ever I put them. I just don't know where that is.

“On the other side of this coin, it drives me crazy when I get a certain something stuck in my head and can't get it out.”

Joanne Zimmermann noted that she couldn't “remember what else I was going to say.” And brbrsln2 suggested this:

”Maybe we should have a contest about the scariest or funniest personal description of 'losing it.'”

Well, not a contest, but let's fool around today telling each other our best personal forgetfulness stories.

According to the people who study such stuff, it is our short-term memory (where in the world could Herm's dress shoes be?) that bedevils us the most. Alternately, it is not uncommon in old age for our brains to dredge up long forgotten scenes from childhood.

But let's leave the science out of it today. This isn't about the tragedy of Alzheimer's or the fear of it; it's just normal old-age memory lapses that annoy and irritate but often are absurd and silly too.

My short-term memory has become so poor that I keep paper and pen nearby in most rooms of the house and my handbag to jot things down so they won't disappear into a black hole.

And it's amazing just how short short-term memory can get. It has happened more than once that somewhere between thinking, I must write that down, and putting pen to paper, I've forgotten what it was I wanted to remember.

But my favorite happened nearly 30 years ago when I was in my early 40s and couldn't find my house keys. An hour of searching turned up not a hint. I tried all the usual places and the tricks the experts suggest like retracing your steps from when you know you last used the keys.

Nothing worked. So I was stuck at home when I should have been at work because living in a house where my front door faced directly on the street in New York City, I couldn't leave without locking the door.

With a sigh, I went to the fridge for a drink and lo! There were the keys on a shelf next to some leftover Chinese takeout looking as out of place as a pig in the parlor. And it's not like I'd arrived home the evening before with food that needed storing. Who knows what kind of brain glitch was at work.

It wasn't long afterward that I obtained a nice-looking piece of wall furniture to place next to the door where I could leave mail and other things I wanted to be sure to take with me and, most important, hang the keys as my first act upon entering the house.

Now it's your turn – what are you adventures in “losing it.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: My Purpose in Life

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