Friday, October 1, 2010

Tanks for the Memory

The news that a close relative of mine is now on medication for memory loss sent a chill down my spine.  I've always had a memory like a sieve; if I lose any more of it, will I be able to function in polite (or even impolite) company?

I try to tell myself that I'm just absent-minded, and no more so than most people, but it's whistling in the dark.  Yes, many people forget where they left their keys, what they had for lunch, the names of casual acquaintances and the phone numbers they always speed-dial.  My issues go deeper than that.

My memory is hopeless whenever numbers are involved.  I don't remember prices, addresses, times, or dates; I was almost 30 before I could remember my own birthday, and I still don't remember my mother's.  Numbers aren't the only problem, though.  I've left my favorite rings on sinks in public restrooms, numerous purses under desks in classrooms, and an expensive raincoat (that I was sitting on) in an airplane.  I've mailed crucial documents without stamps.  I've dumped my income tax refund check into the book return at the public library.  I've forgotten to show up for jury duty, even though I fully intended to serve (sorry, officer, I'll go quietly now).  Fortunately, I've never had children; I could easily have been one of those mothers who walks blithely away from the sleeping baby in the back seat of the car.

Knowing that I am a memory cripple, I have stocked up on crutches.  I live for lists.  I am the queen of spreadsheets.  We have a combination whiteboard/bulletin board in our home office where all our appointments are writ large.  Watching me, strangers may well think I have OCD; I do things according to patterns that I've painstakingly developed to keep from forgetting anything.  Even so I occasionally space off something that leaves those around me incredulous.  How could I forget to walk the elephant?  Not a prob; the miracle is that I've never forgotten where I live.


Strangely, I score well on intelligence tests, and I remember an incredible amount of useless trivia.  Maybe I'm usually so preoccupied with the chatter going on inside my own head that I'm oblivious to the outside world.  Maybe the concussion I suffered at the age of two had something to do with it.  It could be some genetic quirk.  Whatever, if my memory tanks any further I will be, like Blanche DuBois, dependent on the kindness of strangers.  Because everyone will be a stranger.

Time to start donating my spare cash to Alzheimer's research.

"Memory is a net: one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking."  - Oliver Wendell Holmes

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