Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Few Neurons Shy Of A Clue

 


It's not easy for a young person to fully appreciate short-term memory loss. I know because I still have a dim recollection of being a young person.

I remember being really good at Concentration, where you place cards face down and match them into pairs. Used to beat my own mom at that, even as a preschooler, and that makes a kid feel neat. It is exactly the same skill required to be a stellar mail carrier. I could walk up to an unfamiliar sorting case and within an hour I had all the slots memorized. I could make that case my bitch.

Every now and then we'd get a new hire. Some old guy: like, in his fifties even. They'd be so slow. It was hard to watch. They'd stand there with a letter pointed at the case and not move. We used to call it the "Postal Wax Museum." Poor old man! Kind of stupid, I guessed.

So here is a helpful visual depiction of Short-Term Memory Loss. Note the lump on the forehead. This was from taking a small item of trash to the trash can. In order to reach the trash can I have to duck under a vine maple branch. The depositing of the trash takes no more than two seconds, then I turn around and walk back. BAM.

Two seconds is too long to remember to duck under what you just ducked under two seconds ago. 

Short-term memory loss is the real reason we lather, rinse, and repeat. It's why the ends of our sentences go missing. It's why we end up walking into a room and standing there for no reason. It's why we don't interrupt people in conversation as much as we used to. You thought we'd just gotten more considerate? Hell no. Our clever rejoinder sailed away.

Short-term memory loss is why you make an eggplant parmesan and when you're all done eating it you find a big pile of parmesan on the counter. All grated and ready to go.

It's why it seems like I'm looking right through you. I'm searching for a word, and your head is in the way.

Short-term memory loss, to take an example from someone so close to me she may in fact be me, is why you walk a half mile to the grocery store, bag up your produce, and discover you have left your money at home, walk back home, go inside, have to pee, pee, and return to the store, and still don't have your money.

It's complicated. I can recite my library card number, which has eighteen digits. But that's only because I always forget to bring my library card.

Short-term memory loss is why I still don't know the name of our neighbor but he's known mine for twenty years and I can't ask now, but I do remember it's one of an old duo's names, either Chad or Jeremy, or Jan or Dean, Hall, Oates, or possibly Starsky.

If I haven't called you by name in twenty years, be kind. Figure out a way to work it into a conversation. Say "I cannot believe that I, Chad, of all people, lost my keys again!" In fact that one will earn you double points.

You think we've gone stupid, but it's just short-term memory loss.

Although I will be damned if I can tell the difference.

66 comments:

  1. I frequently go to a room to either get something or do something... and promptly forget what it is. My husband refers to this as "destinesia."

    Try as I do to remember people's names, if I don't see them often, I forget. Sometimes I will write it down in a little notebook in my purse: "Candace -- woman at farm market who takes care of the chickens. Lisa -- woman I keep running into at yard sales. Donna -- woman who owns used book store." Oddly, though, I don't seem to have trouble remembering their pet's names, even if I haven't seen them in years. I have learned to just call everyone "sweetie", even if I DO remember their names. That way they are less apt to catch on.

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    Replies
    1. I've adopted "Hon" or "Pudd'n'."

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    2. Mimimanderly: me too! I remember dogs' names, but not humans. Although that's been true since I was about 3.

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    3. This is where the Australian "mate" comes in handy. "G'day mate! Howyadoin'?" "My mate whatshisname" and so on.

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  2. Remembering names of people has become more of a challenge for me, and sometimes I can't think of a word I want to use. That is a scary one for me. Often if I quit stressing about it it will pop into my head just a little while later.

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    1. This is why I write better than I talk. More time to do a workaround.

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    2. Exactly! I also prefer writing (comments, e-mails) to talking (in person or on the phone) as I can use my thesaurus to try to remember the word I was trying to use (usually a word that I normally use all the time, but forget in the heat of the moment.) Also, I can look up quotes that I KNOW, but forget the EXACT words to, or who said it.

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    3. I read once that we evolved to forget things when we walk through doors. More specifically, if you walk out of the forest onto the savannah, you better pay attention to the new terrain to spot the lion before it sees you. Going to a new place demanded attention to the new scene, not to whatever you used to be doing.

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    4. Oh man, it's a big empty savannah out there for me...

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  3. Sometimes I get ready to say something and the whole thought disappears. Sometimes it comes back right away and sometimes it doesn't. What were we talking about?

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  4. When I was in my 20s and 30s, my friends were kind enough to call me "absent minded" rather than stupid or senile.

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    1. So you have a head start on all this.

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    2. Oh, yes, Murr. I am well practiced. In my original comment, I should have noted that I had trouble in younger years, too.

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  5. Replies
    1. Been there, done that (do that) and cannot remember where the t-shirt is. Or if I bought it.

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    2. I've noticed COVID isolation results in fewer embarrassing moments. It hurts less when there aren't witnesses.

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  6. Glad we can all laugh about this. My clever rejoinder just sailed away.

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  7. Said I to myself the other day, Mary Ann, thank God that will never happen to me (knocks on wood). Now, was that the front door or the back door?

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    Replies
    1. And is your name Mary Anne?

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    2. I meant Mary Ann, of course. Couldn't remember for three seconds of scrolling.

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  8. Bill and I have conversations that go:
    Me: “You know that thing that whats’ername had a while ago? I need one for my..um...”
    He: “Yeah.”

    It’s worse in isolation together, because we don’t even have to try to think of words when it’s just us. And it’s worse in the car, for some reason. Probably because I’ve been experiencing passenger trauma and can’t brain for the lingering adrenalin. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d be as fluent as a...um.

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    1. Shoot, I can't even get where I'm going in a car. I've filled my tank once since February (and it's a small tank) and now when I get in the car it feels like it kidnapped me and is completely in charge.

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    2. We just got a new used car because mine died of neglect...chewed off its own transmission, apparently. This new one doesn’t even have a place for a key! And it talks to our phones. The scariest thing, though, is that it stored messages from the previous owner’s phone that sound like Farsi. I was going to let Google Translate loose on the problem, but I’m scared to even get into the thing now. I’ll not only be kidnapped, I’ll probably try to make the front page of the Washington Post.

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    3. I have a new used car too, with a fob instead of a key to start it. I'm so used to it now, though, that when I have to drive my husband's truck (which has an actual key), I will put my foot on the brake and look everywhere for the button to push before I remember to get the key out of my purse. I'd like to say that this only happens the initial time I get in it... but it doesn't. No matter how many stops I make, I still look for the button.

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    4. My car does absolutely nothing smart except run. I even have to get out of it to open the hatch. But growing up when I did, I don't discount that as a plus.

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    5. My "perfect" (well, nearly - it didn't corner worth a toot) was a 1982 Mazda 626. It had power nothing was small enough for me to lean over to unlock the passenger door, 4 on the floor, and was an economical 4-banger. My current car (2014 Lincoln MKZ) does everything except tell me when to sneeze.

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    6. I've been driving for 47 years (not continuously) and the few times I've been behind the wheel in the past six months, I worried I'd forgotten how.

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  9. Gosh... this is spot on! It happens in tai chi too... the group will be doing 42 competition form and then I branch off in chen for some unknown reason, turn around facing the whole group wondering what the heck I am doing. Just chunks of space....

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    Replies
    1. I don't even know what you're talking about and I still believe it's all the same.

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  10. Ah yes, I set out yesterday to post a parcel, only to realise when I was half way down the road that I'd left the parcel at home.

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    1. If you go home for it, don't forget to pee.

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    2. I once walked out of the newsagent without the new baby in her pram and got halfway down the block before I remembered. I was only 24 then.

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  11. I, David, can tell you that you've written another winner!

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  12. I caught myself looking for my glasses, which turned out to be on my head already...

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    Replies
    1. At least they weren’t on your nose. Did that once.

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  13. Still forgot your money!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
    At least you can walk half a mile to the store without having to stop to give your knee a rest.

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    Replies
    1. That I can. I guess I'll settle for the little victories.

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  14. My contribution:

    My thoughts are like lost in a tomb,
    Warp and weft, but I can’t find the loom
    They’re not sharp and snappy,
    And I’d be so happy
    To remember why I came in this room!

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    Replies
    1. Oh thank you so much for your visit!
      And your limericking--how you whiz it.
      But losing our mind
      Puts us all in a bind
      And it's not all that funny now, is it?

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  15. It took me three cracks at reading the damn' post. Forget the comments! sheesh....

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    1. I admire your, uh, that word that means stick to it iveness.

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  16. My old skating coach was clever after he had a brain tumor removed. He invented his own synonyms. “Sweetie, do you see that, uh, ‘freebis’, over there?” Y’all have my permission to adopt this word.

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  17. Person...man...woman...TV...camera.

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  18. I usually remember to take my money to the store but leave the shopping list at home. I've also recently made a cup of tea, rinsed off the stirring spoon then walked back to the computer without the drink. Had to walk all the way back to the kitchen for it. Six whole steps!

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    1. I've heard that our brains unload to make room for new stuff, but I don't see a lot of new stuff coming in.

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  19. God invented the ellipsis for this very reason...

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    Replies
    1. True enough, but if you put in too many of them, they make me sleepy.

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    2. I LOVE ELLIPSES! They are my very favorite punctuation mark! (although dashes are nice, too.)

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  20. My cousin just sent me your blog last night and I love it. Oh yes, I know all about the short term memory problem. In fact, these days, when I’m writing a blog post, I have to quickly look online for the word that just won’t pop up like it used to from my brain. My brother keeps laughing and says, “ginkgo biloba.” Sigh... Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.

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    1. Welcome aboard! It's possible my audience skews older...ahem...but you can see you are NOT alone.

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  21. You guys are killing me. Snort worthy for sure.

    Also, please, let me know if any of you see my glasses. I've got the memory thing going on as well as the eye thing- I can no longer see anything close up with my glasses on- so I am constantly taking them off, putting them down, and then the memory thing happens and I'm walking around, squinting, looking for the glasses I have misplaced, and then forgetting why I came in here anyway... it's a ridiculous cycle that makes everything take twice as long. But- I do find myself laughing at my self more and more- so upside? Oh yes.

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    1. OMG! The glasses thing! I'm glad it's not just me. I have multi-focal contacts, which I wear during the day. But I still need reading glasses for reading. And for REALLY close work, I see much better with no contacts or glasses at all. At night, when I take out my contacts, I put on my glasses... which I have to take off to read a book, because I can't see close-up with my glasses on. To see the computer monitor, like now, I have to angle my glasses down on my nose (considering my nose, this is a considerable distance.) With my glasses perched as they actually SHOULD be, I can only see the TV... which I seldom watch anyway.

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    2. I see a beaded eyeglass chain in your future. I do associate these with flatulent elderly piano teachers, but that's just me.

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    3. Oh yes- eyeglass chain for sure. I've been looking for one that doesn't remind me of my least favorite elementary nightmare teacher...

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