The case of the missing case
Last week I mentioned one of the vicissitudes of aging – memory loss. Maybe the real issue isn’t loss, per se, but degree of loss. It’s a tough number for me to call, due to my being on the horns of dilemma.
On the one horn, logically, I know my mind doesn’t work as well as it used to. For one thing, I have trouble finding the exact word, when both speaking and writing. I can’t say it’s a constant struggle, but I can say it’s not one I recall having, say, 20 years ago. Or if it happened, it was a lot less frequent.
Other areas of my memory aren’t what they once were, either. Mostly, it’s with recall. I’ll hear a song from my gilded youth, one I’d heard it at least 1,000 times on both vinyl and radio, and one I knew at least as well as my service number. Yet when I think about who did it, my mind is completely blocked. The Blues Project? Paul Butterfield? Muddy Waters? Skynyrd? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir?
If I think about it at length, I may or may not come up with the name. But given the access to information on the internet, I know I can easily find it out when I get home to my computer — provided I can still remember what I’d wanted to look up.
So yeah, I know my memory isn’t what it once was. But that’s logic. The other horn, emotion, tells me any “slippage” I’m having is minor, even microscopic, no biggie, no problemo, amigo. But that’s rationalization at its finest, or as we called it in The Good Old Days, back when my memory banks were solvent – wishful thinking.
My confusion about whether or not I’m losing it is never helped by mentioning it to my peers. Inevitably, trying to reassure me (and themselves too, I’m sure), they’ll say my lack of acuity is due to two things.
One is since I now know so much more, it’s inevitable I’ll forget more. The other is as my years have accrued, so has my wisdom. So I don’t remember all those things because they’re trivial. It’s a great theory. It’s also total bumpf.
I want to remember all those trivial stupidities because it’s what I’ve always done best. For all I know, recalling the irrelevant may be my only skill.
Saying my memory lapses are a sign of wisdom is ridiculous. It’s like saying the reason all my joints ache, creak and crunch in the morning and it takes me five full minutes to unfold myself out of bed is because my body now knows how to engage in the glories of A Whole New Day. As if waking up pain-free is somehow inferior, fit only for lesser mortals or somepin’.
Tied up with losing my memory is losing things.
Not remembering song names, book titles, state capitals and the like nags at me like a toothache. Losing things, while not as annoying, is also not a walk in the park. But one thing about it consoles me: I know everyone loses all manner of things. Whenever I start whipping myself for losing something, even something valuable, I remind myself of an article I read years ago.
It was about some stone dwellings in New England that a bunch of locals claimed were a pre-Columbian Celtic settlement. A group of archeologists checked out the buildings and concluded they’d been built in Colonial times and no earlier.
As might be expected, the locals were furious. I mean, why would some uppity ivory tower snots who’d spent decades studying settlement patterns know more than they did about such things? Especially since they’d been told all about it by their grandfather, Uncle Jed, and three generations of village idiots?
One point the archeologists made was there was no physical evidence of Celts. They found no tools, no jewelry, no fasteners, nothing, when they dug up the area. In reply, one of the locals huffed, asking if the archeologists trying to tell them that the Celts, after traveling across the ocean under the harshest conditions, would be so sloppy as to lose precious handmade tools and jewelry?
An archeologist replied that, Yeah, that’s exactly what they meant. The essential truth of archeology was all people lose all kinds of stuff — always have … and always will. Losing things isn’t unusual — it’s normal.
Keeping that in mind has been a consolation whenever I lose something. But there are times when the consolation pales. This happened two weeks ago. First I lost my keys, and two days later I lost my glasses (and of course the glasses were my prescription bifocals, not the dollar store cheapies, of which I must have ten pairs).
You’d think that after losing my keys, I’d be vigilant enough not to then lose my glasses. It’s what I thought too. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with reality.
I had extra keys, so I was safe there, but on my key chain was my Sylvester charm, and losing that hurt. As for the glasses? I wasn’t emotionally attached to them, as I was with Sylvester, but it was going to be a direct hit on my wallet. This was especially galling since my prescription hasn’t changed in years and I’m not someone who looks at eyeglasses as either jewelry or a fashion statement, so it’s not like I’d get a new pair unless forced to. That pair was probably 20 years old and A-OK, far as I’m concerned.
As I sulked and pouted about my glasses, I also put off the inevitable — calling Eye Peek to arrange for a new pair. Throughout the day, at the oddest of times, I found myself mumbling, grumbling, carping, and just generally being a joyless pain in the prat. Then last Friday, the cloud lifted.
A mailer appeared in my mailbox, with the return address The Downhill Grill, Saranac Lake, NY 12983.
When I opened it, there were my glasses, along with a note.
OK, a confession: I admit that, in the words of astrologers, I have more than my share of air in my sign. But I’m not totally hopeless, and I offer as proof that I taped a return address label on the outside of my glass case, and another one on the inside. So, with my vital statistics in hand, Carolyn Lawless knew where to send it, which she did, including a nice note.
I was delighted to have my glasses back, and touched that Carolyn had gone through the trouble of mailing it to me. And there wasn’t only trouble involved — there was also expense: It cost her $4.99 for the postage.
I’d like you to know I responded like a perfect gentleman.
First, I addressed an envelope to Carolyn.
Then wrote her a gracious thank-you note on my finest legal tablet paper, penned in my neatest block letters.
Then I put in a crisp five dollar bill.
And — again the perfect gentleman – I told her to keep the change.