(Whether you are my age or pre-memory loss, please share this with parents and friends who’ve crossed the line.)
What was I was just thinking to write about? Oh yeah, memory loss.
Already this morning, I knew I needed to go upstairs but couldn’t remember why (to turn on the humidifier). And there was something else. Oh yeah, I went to my laptop while preparing my shredded wheat—and I knew there was a reason. After a minute I remembered it was to stream NPR while preparing my shredded wheat.
The first time I looked up Alzheimer’s (and it’s cousins senility and dementia) was shortly after I gave birth to my oldest daughter. I attributed my diaper brain to, well, diaper brain.
Still, I needed to put memory triggers into place. So before leaving our New York apartment, in addition to taking the diaper bag, I ran through my mental checklist: Keys, Tissues, Aspirins, Gum, Money. (Memory Tip #1)
That didn’t help the time I forgot to take my daughter out of a taxi; she wasn’t on one of my checklists. Since I’ve never been a fan of purses, I continue to use that same mental list. Except now I include reading glasses and Medicare card.
I’ve grown to accept the Trivia game I play with my mom. We both do it (I saw whatshername on Oprah, y’know the one from California. Maria Shriver? That’s it!).
When I was in 7th grade my dad took a memory course and would come home after each class and teach me what he learned.
For example, using that mnemonic system I still recall the phone number of my piano teacher, the one with slick black hair and pointy shoes to whom I took a bus downtown from my junior high school. I would mount the steps to his third floor apartment and learn to play “Tears on my Pillow.” To the boogie woogie beat of “Beat me Daddy Eight to the Bar,” he would rub my bare thigh faster and faster closer and closer to my panty line.
Though it was as creepy as it sounds, it never occurred to me to tell my mom and I didn’t want to be impolite and ask him to stop. Funny how my distant memory is sharp as cheddar cheese.
On the other hand it’s almost a cliché to say I can’t remember whether I took my vitamins five minutes ago or whether I was just thinking about it. Yet, I lack the patience to fill one of those day-of-the-week pill holders.
So, after I take my morning vitamins, I separate out the one I need to take at night. And then after I take the vitamin at night, I put it back with the others for the morning. (Memory Tip #2) (Another morning pill I keep with my toothpaste so I remember to take it (Memory Tip #3).)
Then at night I go through my closing up the house mental checklist (Memory Tip #4): Doors (make sure they’re locked), Water (refillable bottle to take upstairs), Phones (ringers off for the night), Thermostat (turn down), Vitamins (as mentioned above).
As for memorizing, it’s not so easy. But the benefit is that it trumps all other worries for a month while you work on it, as I wrote in my post Speak Easy about my stand-up performance in a Valentine’s Day show.
Thank goodness for photographs, because without them my whole life might be as ephemeral as a shadow. Maybe this is why I cling to the notes my girlfriend and I passed in Mr. Ashcom’s 10th grade history class and to letters I received nearly 60 years ago and all the time in between. Though I’m sad about the lost art of letter writing, the Internet has at least saved my Letters Received file and my fireproof memory box (random bonus tip) from bursting.
Agatha Christie’s lexicon decreased significantly as she aged, while her use of vague phrases such as “all sorts of” increased. Scholars believe she probably suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Generally, though, when writing I feel less challenged than when bumping along in the rest of my life. But do let me know if you notice me slipping into all sorts of uninteresting words and phrases.
What worries me most is that I can’t remember what happened in the short story I was reading when I paused ten minutes ago to refill my cup with hot water. Or when I can’t tell you anything about the movie I saw last week. There’s no checklist for those.
Anyone out there have other memory tips or creepy old man stories?
UNRELATED ANNOUNCEMENT: See my latest Home Goes Strong posts (they’re packed with tips!)