I Forgot — Again

After work this evening I went shopping at Walmart and wound up locking my keys in the car. I had to call my hubby from work 30 miles away and have him come unlock the car.

That in itself doesn’t sound so bad. Everyone forgets something. Locks themselves out of something.

Not me.

To me this is the first sign of dementia. Or Alzheimer’s. Or something just as tragic.

I just know it.

I’m not making fun of those who have it. I have always had this feeling that this will be my path somewhere down the line. No one in my family has it, but my mom passed away at 54 so who knows what her fate would have been.

Locking myself out of my car does not bode well for my wanting to go to Paris for a week by myself, either.

I’m already nervous about the thought of taking a trip like this by myself. I am at the fantasy stage, the imagine-it-all stage. The pre-research stage. My family doesn’t know my desire — even my husband is pre-iffy. So convincing everyone that I can handle life alone in the city of Love for a week by myself is going to be a real hurdle.

I already am a fraidy cat when it comes to strangers and finding my way around new places. The thought of boarding a plane and going to a country where I don’t speak the language nor know the landscape is not just a case of turning left instead of right.

But I’m still up for it. My writing is still up for it.

I’m getting afraid my memory is following way far behind.

What if I lose my hotel key? What if I take the wrong bus and get dumped in a small French village where no one speaks English and I become the town buffoon?

I can just see this feeble old lady wandering around aimlessly saying “Parles-tu Anglais?

I know this is overreaction at the highest level.

But when you’ve been forgetting things lately like locking the bottom lock on the door or locking your keys in the car or wondering where the scratches on your shoulder came from (the cat, probably), traveling by yourself becomes secondary.

The Paris trip thing is the least of my worries. I forget this thing or that thing now, and before I know it I’ll be forgetting to put on underwear. You know what I mean.

Fear is like a multiplication table. At the beginning, the numbers are small. Easy to remember. But as you age, the multiplication table gets bigger and bigger. You try and keep up — you study, you make notes, you talk outloud to yourself. 

Yet you forget one thing and it’s back to the beginning of the multiplication table, with a few more people watching you perform. 

I know I have a long way to go before the mind disappears into that sweet fog of NaNaLand. But every time I slip, every time I mess up, it makes me — and others — take notice.

I’d rather take notice of cafes in Paris that serve a mean Coq au Vin….

 

Let’s Go There Together

two-old-ladiesIt is truly the beginning of Summer — 85-90 degrees, thunderstorms out of nowhere, sweaty body parts and streets that wave in the heat (who ever thought?)

Trying to find time to finish my Sunday Evening Art bloggeroonie, along with cleaning, cooking, watering the plants, catch up on Game of Thrones, play fetchie with the dogs, and run around with my grandson. I don’t remember being this busy 30 years ago when my own kids were little. All this running around with lists and markerboards and post-it notes full of things I don’t want to forget make me begin to wonder.

I sometimes wonder if I am at the beginning stages of dementia — I forget names, I forget occasions. I get turned around at the drop of a hankie. I was talking to my bff in the car on the way to the Art Fair Saturday: we were in this big, fun, heavy discussion and I had this great point I wanted to make, and suddenly I drew a great big blank. A white 50 x 50 foot wall couldn’t have been more empty. I KNEW where I was going seconds earlier; it’s just that something (who knows what) distracted me, and before I knew it I was sitting with my mouth open trying to catch flies or something.

The only saving grace was that my friend chuckled, started her own story, and hit that very same 50 x 50 wall. She’s several  years younger than me, and maybe it was contagious, but we got a good laugh out of that one.

How would you know if you were losing your mind?

I laugh at that thought, but it’s just as serious as any other disease or accident that may or may not befall you at any time. When does the joking become real? I mean — when does it get serious?

I am able to do my job fairly proficiently still; I am able to write sentences and make my readers smile and collect unique art and talk on the phone and sketch and stencil and read long, windy books with the best of them. I remember how to get to most places, how to balance a check book, and how to do Excel and Word.

But I also forget names, recipes, and directions. I forget how to reprogram the stupid TV/Dish recorder if I hit the wrong button, and I sometimes stare at the computer screen because I’ve forgotten the next step.

I’m sure it happens to all of us. I only hope that I can make a creative moment out of every mistake that takes me in the wrong direction. I’ve already decided that there is no wrong direction (except walking into traffic). Coordinated outfits and hair styles that last the day are more like a crap game to me. If they work, fine. If not, don’t worry about it.

I often get tired of others telling me what to do, and do make strides to “do it myself.” Which I do. Most of the time. The rest of the time I nod and smile and go into my creative world and do things my way anyway. I go off on writing jaunts and unique art jaunts and kinda don’t care anymore if my family goes with me or not. Heck — I’m even singing “My Way” with Frankie now and then.

I don’t know if that’s the beginning of dementia or Alzheimer’s  — and it really doesn’t matter, does it? if I get there I get there. In the meantime I want to leave my own little legacy behind. Lots of pictures of whatever on my phone. Unicorn collections and fancy, second-hand-store wine glasses. Sappy novels, blogs, short stories, poetry, love notes, unique artwork. And, by golly, forgetful or not, I’m going to have a great time doing it all.

Someday someone will go through my laptop and smile at what was left behind.

(Oh Good Lord — did you see this?!?!)

Sharpening the Tool

I hate it when people say that many middle-aged people “aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.” It’s condescending, insulting, naive and just plain wrong. What I hate even more, though, is being one of those dull tools. Alas, there are times when I feel I’m struggling to stay in the shed, period. 

This morning was a fine example of the three strikes towards the dull tool rule. This morning (really last night), I failed to barricade our kitchen, and our very naughty lab got in and scattered what she couldn’t eat down the hallway. I erased the new grocery list on the marker board, thinking it was last week’s, and left paperwork that was supposed to be turned in today on the kitchen table. I’m not stupid – it’s just that I don’t pay attention the way I should. 

How many times have things happened around you that only later you find important? Except for local jaunts, I get lost driving without written directions, even though I’ve been to these places dozens of times. I am terrible at relaying verbal messages from doctors, bankers and insurance agents, and although many things make sense to me, I have a hard time explaining them to others. Like I have crossed wires in my head. 

Is this the same woman who was commended for the creative language in her novels? The same who proofreads and enters information into a computer every day?  What happens to our ability to pay attention? Do we all become a little A-D-D as we get older? Is it just a case of not paying attention? Or something more sinister? 

I am not talking about dementia here; this is not one of those not-enough-blood-to-the-brain things. There are many people from their 20’s through their 80’s who bounce from cloud to cloud, half connected to the responsibilities of this world, half to another. Some are considered geniuses, others rebels. Some are trendsetters, others ne’re-do-wells. I’m sure at least one of them comes to your mind even now. But that doesn’t mean they are slower or duller than others. Everybody forgets things ― everybody does things now and then in a skewered way. The important thing to do in times like these is to learn from your idiosyncrasies. If you can’t change them, join them! 

Start with slowing down. “I don’t go fast!” you reiterate. Perhaps not. But in some circles even full speed ahead isn’t fast enough. We see others around us moving faster, driving faster, coming to conclusions faster, and that makes us feel inferior. Our brain tells us we are not, yet try telling that to our ego. We are so busy trying to keep one step ahead of the game, thinking about the next play, the next set of consequences, that we fail to finish the game we are currently playing. When I take the grocery list with me and not the checkbook, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. It just means I didn’t take time to complete the circle, i.e., grocery list = buying groceries = no cash on hand = pay with a check.

I think it’s the simple things that trip us up the most. I don’t do well remembering driving directions because, I admit, I don’t focus on taking this road to that highway to that street. As a passenger, I’m too busy chatting or looking out the windows at the cows and the clouds or reading a book or talking to my car mates. This highway and that street aren’t important to me at that moment. That doesn’t mean they are not important at all ― just not at that particular moment of remembering. 

Same thing with worrying if I turned off the curling iron or picked up the stack of bills on the table to drop in the mailbox. Both situations are important; it’s just that I’m more worried about punching in on time than casing the table one more time or dipping one more time into the bathroom. I can handle the main control for the TV/DVD player/satellite box, but if someone comes along and changes things in order to play a video game, I’m done for the night. 

So when I say I/we need to slow down, all I mean is that we need to pay attention to each task as we perform it. There is nothing wrong with being interested or excited about our next move, but sometimes we need to exaggerate our involvement in the current one. To assure I complete each circle, I do things like talk out loud to myself (stove is OFF. Curling iron is BACK UNDER THE SINK).  I know it sounds ridiculous (the dogs think I’m talking to them), but I would feel a lot more ridiculous should my house catch on fire. 

 We are all given one deck of cards to play with, and it’s how we play with the cards we’re dealt that matters. I exceed in places where others fall short. It’s all a balancing act. It is in your life, too. So don’t let it be a big deal. Make your list, sing as you recite your steps, and stay on course. After all, the most important thing in life is continually sharpening that tool. 

You’ll never know when you’ll need it to dig yourself out of a hole.