I forget when I started worrying about memory loss. But it probably began with a piece of paper on which I had written an important address – the location of a lecture I thought I’d attend on “Memory Loss in the Mature.” I remembered writing down the address because I was afraid I was going to misplace the flyer about the lecture. Which I did.
I spent 30 frustrating minutes searching through the papers and yellow stickies to the right of the computer screen. I found a yellow sticky with www.al.gov, whatever that was about. I looked through the pile of papers next to the calculator (“Pay insurance before the 26th,” – whatever month that was about). I went through the stack of notes next to the phone (Who lives in area code 888?). Finally, I sat down and calmly asked myself “What was I doing when I wrote down that number?” I drew a complete blank – well, not complete, because I started wondering if I had taken my Ginkgo Biloba that morning.
“Is this the start of Alzheimer’s?” I thought, which is what every geezer immediately begins to think when they forget something. “Maybe I should research the topic,” I thought, then wondered if I hadn’t already done that. I wrote a note to myself, “Print out Alzheimer’s info from web site.” That went in the paper pile next to the computer.
Maybe, I thought, I would have done better if the address wasn’t on a piece of paper. I am quite good at remembering faces. “Weren’t you a parent in my daughter’s 6th grade class? I don’t remember your name, but your daughter was the girl with the soft Hello Kitty lunchbox my daughter would always be bugging me to buy. Wasn’t a nice, cheap plastic lunchbox good enough? Well, no I don’t recall making a big scene about that in the play yard – but I can’t really remember everything from 20 years ago.”
I began wondering if this memory thing was hereditary. I’m always forgetting where I put my car keys and my younger daughter seems to have inherited that trait. On the other hand, my older daughter has a photographic memory. “You put the car keys under the shirts in the laundry basket, Dad.” So what exactly is the family forgetful factor? Here is a new area of study for the scientifically minded. First, find the Memory Quotient, or MQ, of the parents based on a memory test in which both parents must recall their children’s birth dates, date of potty training completion, names of their two best friends, and what exactly you said “No” to that ruined their teenage lives. Then, use the parents MQ and one of those long scientific formulas to get your children’s MQ. The pharmaceutical industry could then develop drugs that increase MQ, whatever that stands for.
So where was I? Yeah, I was still trying to find that damn piece of paper with the address. The trick, in these situations, is to look in the same places you’ve already looked, but faster. Right of computer, next to calculator, under the phone. Still no piece of paper. OK. The second trick is to look in the same places again, but even faster and more frantically. Computer. Calculator. Phone. No success. Third trick. Same search, same speed, but backwards. Phone. Calculator. Computer. No piece of paper.
Now it was time to think out of the box. Look in the wastebasket. No. But, hey, when did I throw that alumni magazine in there? I don’t think I read it – or did I? Continue out of box searching. In front of the printer. No. On top of file cabinet. No. OK Faster, more frenzied, and backwards. File cabinet. Printer. Wastebasket. Computer. Calculator. Phone. Still no piece of paper with the address!
I read once (maybe twice – I can’t recall) about another memory trick where you forget about what you can’t find, thus allowing your subconscious to swim the backwaters of the mind and recall where the item was placed. So I try to not think about the piece of paper that is cleverly hiding from my conscious mind. I’m off to the kitchen. I’m thinking about a sandwich – a turkey sandwich. Hey, didn’t Paul Simon wear a turkey costume on Saturday Night Live? Well, that’s no use. OK. Maybe I’ll make a fruit salad – apple, grapes, pears. Hey, don’t some guys dress up in fruit costumes in that commercial for something? No help there. Apparently, my subconscious wants to think about Halloween costumes. What month is that anyway? Well, so much for the forget-about-it memory trick.
Later that day (I can’t remember how much later) I did find that piece of paper with the address on it. It fell on the floor under my chair. Unfortunately, I still didn’t make it to the lecture. Couldn’t remember where I put the car keys.