I’ve been forgetting things for years–at least since my late forties. I remember distinctly telling a friend that I was losing words. I didn’t think of it as an indication of advancing age, but as a major catastrophe, since I was always good at words. She smugly passed it off as of no interest to her. I made a mental note to cross her off my Christmas card list.
First it was names, then things I was forgetting. I had just become a grandmother for the first time, so I wondered if that had something to do with it. We had recently moved back home to California, and I was helping Dr. Advice remodel an older home, while teaching at both our local college and at the City Recreation Department, when I found myself pointing and referring to things at each place as “You know, that thing over there.”
When this first happened, I did what everyone does, I scrolled through my mental alphabet trying to hit a familiar letter. In fact, I did this very thing today when trying to remember the name of a woman who had been a girlfriend of a late friend of ours whom I just saw last weekend a large gathering. I remembered that she had had long red hair (it’s grey now) that she used to toss around like a mane. But when faced with trying to remember her name I drew a blank. So I just smiled broadly and exclaimed how glad I was to see her again. Today, while both Dr. Advice and I were deep into the Wall Street Journal, I blurted out “Linda!” My good husband gave me a look which said I had clearly slipped over the brink.
It is a well-known fact that presidents, CEO’s and other ordinary people often sit beside someone with a better memory that theirs and surreptitiously ask the name of the person speaking to them.
I have learned not to get too excited about these things, so I just drop the thought and move on to something else I will probably forget before finally remembering it. I used to think that eventually the correct word would come to me, but now I realize that some things are hopelessly gone forever and that the new things don’t stick. There is a frozen blackberry cobbler which is made by some company I just can’t bring to mind. I know it is put out by a local restaurant, and it is a common enough name, but I’ll be darned if I can keep it in my mind. Each time I discover it, I swear I will always remember, and so I repeat if over a to myself a few times to make sure, but the next time I want to buy it–it’s gone again.
I once knew a woman who couldn’t remember her sister’s name when she went introduce her in a wedding reception line. I even remember her name; it was Adele. She moved away forty years ago. When I gave my first solo performance at my voice teacher’s home, while standing in front of an enormous grand piano, with audience three feet in front of me, I froze, and remembered nothing. Standing beside my handsome groom over 66 years ago in front of an Episcopalian priest, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to answer, so I so I began to quietly sob.
All this makes me feel sad and a bit wistful, but now mostly it makes me feel old. Is it another symptom besides the physical? I don’t know the answers and if I did, I’ve probably forgotten them. But one thing I do remember is the friend to whom I confessed my word loss forty years ago, who while not a victim of Alzheimer’s, can’t remember a darn thing either!