Forget me not

March 7, 2022

   We both agreed the two main actresses in the movie were familiar. Carol Googled both, but neither had been in anything we’d seen. About 20 minutes into the movie, we both could predict what was going to happen next. It hit both of us at the same time: we’d already seen this movie. Well, at least we knew where we’d seen the two actresses before: it was in this movie.

   You know what’s coming next. We’re worrying it’s time for the test. But not yet. After all, I can still recite lines from Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life. Carol does Wordle and I read a lot, so we’re thinking we’re both doing the mental calisthenics that help us maintain the kind of healthy brains that will continue to guarantee we’ll at least recognize each other for years to come.

   Clearly, though, we’re becoming more preoccupied with losing our memories as we get older, especially as that may apply to recognizing who each other is. But there is a silver lining to casual memory loss. Yes, on the one hand, we’re increasingly afraid we’ve forgotten something we’ve already seen and that could be something serious. On the other hand, though, we can see things we’ve seen already as if we’re seeing them again for the first time. In a way it doubles our inventory of what to watch. We see things for the first time, and also see them again that seem like the first time. I mean, as long as we continue to know how to put on our pants, button our shirts and brush our teeth, do we really have to retain the quick recall we had in our youth?

I might be reading a thoroughly engrossing history of Ireland, for instance, and suddenly realize I’ve been daydreaming of the steak we’re having for dinner that night, and have to read the chapter on the potato famine all over again.

   We’ve watched wonderful series that we’ve loved. Some months later we watched them again, as if for the first time. Is this a problem? We’re home, watching the TV and not threatening anyone. We’re not wandering out into the street in our bathrobes. We recognize each other. We’re not forgetting to eat. So what if neither of us can remember who starred in Die Hard, or when’s the last time we ordered pizza?

   I’m exaggerating the problem, of course. Forgetfulness is as much a function of simple focus and paying attention, as it could be symptomatic of a serious health matter. Especially if you’re an inveterate daydreamer like me. Yes, I read a lot, but my mind drifts while I’m reading. I might be reading a thoroughly engrossing history of Ireland, for instance, and suddenly realize I’ve been daydreaming of the steak we’re having for dinner that night, and have to read the chapter on the potato famine all over again.

   Since I’ve spent the better part of my life daydreaming about being somewhere else, doing something else or even being someone else, I’m not altogether sure I’ll even know when dementia has set in. After all, I am still in the habit of actually touching my running shorts before going jogging, just to make sure I’m not leaving the house in my underwear.

   That does probably suggest there is something or other wrong with me, but at least it’s not dementia.

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