When does our brain start to experience fog warnings? I am amazed at how quickly I’m forgetting things. I used to be able to recall names and faces quickly. Now, my poor students from last year come to visit and I have to look at some of them for a bit to recall their names. I don’t like that.
Students are certain I’ll never forget them, and here I am forgetting names over the summer. To me, it’s unacceptable.
I’m lucky to remember the names of my own children, I guess. My grandmother used to crack us up when she’d open the screen door of her house and holler “John-Allen-Robert-Mark-Matt…” and so on until she got the right kid. She would forget whom she was trying to summon. So heck, why not run down the list of all her grandchildren.
I shouldn’t have laughed at my poor old grandmother.
My own great aunt, who inherited the longevity of her family, lived to be 103 and only started to dim a little in her late 90s. I think she was still possibly driving in her mid-90s, still dressing stylishly and still keeping current on most things.
When we visited her prior to her 99th birthday, her short-term memory seemed to be failing. We’d talk about things from one moment to the next and she would ask the same questions or repeat herself. Completely out of character for someone who had always been “sharp as a tack.”
I picked her up to bring her to my mother’s one day, and thought it would be fun if we took a detour and drove by the old home place: the farm where my aunt, grandmother and their siblings had grown up. I knew it was at the end of a long, long road, but I figured my aunt would steer us there. On the way, she asked me at least three times where we were going. Yet, along the way, she told stories of houses we’d pass, and even a large tree that was still growing beside the road. There was a story of their snooty cousins who lived up the road and of the old schoolhouse. Still, she’d ask me where we were going after finishing one of those stories.
At her 99th birthday party, she appeared rather youthful and spry. She walked around, greeting guests and acting like “the biggest duck in the puddle.” If she was feeling “foggy,” she didn’t let on. The stubborn streak that runs in the family, along with a good dose of pride allowed her to put on a good show.
Most of my family has been pretty accepting of all things in life. We make mistakes. We lose things. We grow older. Tough it out. Get over yourself. Laugh as much as you can. That’s pretty much the philosophy of most folks in my family.
Probably one of the funniest stories regarding my aunt and growing older also came during her late 90s.
Her younger sister, the colorful and a bit bawdy “Aunt Mid” was a good six years younger, but was also experiencing some of the same memory issues when she visited one summer.
On one of the last such visits, my mother called the house and asked them both how they were doing. “Didn’t you just call us?” asked the older aunt. My mother insisted she hadn’t, but the stubborn streak persisted. “You just called us a few minutes ago.” Then, my aunt yelled into the other room “Mid! Didn’t Shirley just call us earlier today?” The reply from the other room was, “How in the hell do you expect me to remember?”
The two of them together couldn’t remember things from one moment to the next, but they still had fun.
I’m sure they’d laugh at the thing that happened to me the other day.
I saw a lady coming across the grocery store. From far away, she looked like a good friend of ours, and so I gave a hearty wave. She gave a wave back, equally enthusiastic. When we got closer together, it was evident I didn’t recognize her.
“Oh, I didn’t recognize you from far away,” she said.
“Ha ha ha. How are you doing?” I asked cheerfully.
“Doing well. Yourself?”
“Great! Everyone at your house OK?”
“Yes, everyone growing up.”
“It happens awfully fast.”
We said our cheerful goodbyes and I have no doubt this woman didn’t know who I was either. It is my hope she was a parent of a student I’ve forgotten, but I’m pretty sure her puzzled look meant she didn’t know me either.
Oh well. At least we were friendly with one another.