It’s Really Not Funny Anymore!

Okay—it’s really not funny anymore. Me being forgetful, I mean. I’m starting to get a bit worried about it. What if it’s a sign of worse things to come? What if I become someone who forgets where her home is, what her name is, who her family is? What if I forget me?

I read a novel a while ago, “Still Alice”, by Lisa Genova, about a woman who becomes very frightened when she begins to lose her memory.  She pretends it doesn’t happen, pretends she is all right, and she is able to carry on this pretence for a length of time, until she goes running one day and can’t find her way back home. I won’t reveal the entire story-line in case some of you haven’t read this book yet and decide to, but suffice it say that Still Alice is scary for those of us of a certain age.

For now I’m only forgetting where I put things, what I wanted when I went downstairs or to my bedroom or to the store. To compensate I make lists; without them I probably wouldn’t buy the groceries I need or call the repairmen I need or remember my friends on their birthdays.

I carry a notebook with me and jot things down when I think of something I need to remember. I have pages in the notebook dedicated for each month of the year, and the title “Things To Do In _______(And I fill in the blank with the appropriate month). Some of the items I have listed under July’s heading are: Register the car; Make an appointment to have my hair cut; Call the accountant; and Leave for the airport at six a.m. on the 29th.

The notebook with its lists is useful, but it doesn’t solve all my problems. I can write down the items I need to take with me from the house to the cottage and check them off when I have them gathered to load into the car, but the list doesn’t ensure that I actually DO load everything I had planned on taking with me. Twice now this month I’ve packed the car and travelled part of the way to the cottage before being struck with a sneaking suspicion that I had forgotten something very important and stopped the car on the side of the highway to double-check. The first time I was almost to the cottage; on Saturday I was only five minutes out from home before I realized I had left my backpack, with all my computer and electronic gadgets in it, on a chair in the living room. I turned off at the next exit and returned home, thankful that I had not driven too far this time.

Is my forgetfulness simply a sign of a ‘busy mind’, or of a grieving woman still preoccupied over the death of her husband, or of someone just not paying enough attention to what she’s doing, or is it more sinister, a sign that senility has set its sights on me and is surging towards me with its path of destruction, like molten lava oozing down a volcanic mountain?

I think I’m doing a lot of the right things to keep my mind active and my brain cells firing. I write and rewrite and rewrite again, searching for the best possible words to convey my thoughts on paper or on the computer screen. I play games such as Scrabble and Sudoku and work on crosswords and jigsaw puzzles; I try to eat right, try to exercise my body and try to spend some alone-time reflecting. I hope this will help to stave off a memory disease, but who knows? I have a cousin, just a few years my senior, who was stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s when she was in her early fifties. She is now in a special-care home since her husband, who lovingly looked after her for as long as possible, could no longer cope with her ever-increasing needs. I know that many families could share similar stories, and that is sad. With our population growing older, and the baby boomers among us heading towards our senior years, I wonder what the future holds. Will there be enough nursing homes and care-givers available to look after those needing assistance; if there aren’t, what will happen to the people who have nobody on which they can depend?

When I began writing this post I didn’t plan for it to be serious in nature—I had simply thought I would make light of the fact that I had to turn back home on Saturday to retrieve my computer and other gadgets I use every day. Only when I began writing did I realize that perhaps I should actually be concerned. Forgetting twice in one month? What if it becomes twice in one week, or twice in one day?

I have to try harder to focus on what I need to do, where I need to be and what I need to take with me wherever I’m going. I’m heading home from the cottage later this week to pack for a two-week trip to Alberta, so I’m going to start writing my packing list today. I’ll be sure to put “Laptop and iPad plus accessories” at the top of the list, in capital letters if need be; I don’t think my fellow airline passengers would be too thrilled if I announced that we had to turn back because I forgot something that I really really really need. That’s just a guess on my part, but I’m pretty sure it’s a good guess, so I’d better check my list twice before I head to the airport. Wish me luck!


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