Neurotics in lockdown

August 10, 2020

Listen to “Neurotics In Lockdown” on Spreaker.

For Carol and me, irrational fears of coronavirus have replaced our irrational fears of dementia from what I like to call our “everyday” neuroses.

Over the past six months, every sniffle, sneeze, cough, headache and feeling warm was being over analyzed for the symptom’s indication of Covid. There was that time, for instance, when I suddenly realized I couldn’t taste the butter on my English muffin, until I saw from the wrapper that it was the unsalted kind.

Before the pandemic, Carol and I occupied our leisure time worrying whether not remembering, say, Burt Lancaster’s name, what we had for dinner on Tuesday or maybe opening the refrigerator and suddenly not remembering why, were all signs of impending Alzheimer’s. ( For the past several years now, I still occasionally check that I’m wearing my running shorts while I’m out jogging. The fact that I don’t check before I leave the house has also been worrisome.)

“Then we started watching a Jim Gaffigan comedy special, certain we had seen all of them on Netflix already. The jokes were fresh and new, and we couldn’t be sure that we had seen it already.”

But this breather from dementia fears has given both of us time to reassess the whole idea of failing memory as we continue to age. We started watching the first season of Ricky Gervais’s After Life again, having watched it earlier. We were pleased to find we’d forgotten most of it, and were able to enjoy it as if viewing it for the first time. Then we started watching a Jim Gaffigan comedy special, certain we had seen all of them on Netflix already. The jokes were fresh and new, and we couldn’t be sure that we had seen it already.

“This isn’t bad,” Carol said. “It’s like every day is brand new.”

What a great sensation to have during a protracted lockdown, I thought to myself. If we’ve reached that stage of life where big chunks of daily experience just disappear from memory, then every day won’t seem like the same old, same old. It’s like a vacation, without changing a jot of your everyday routine. Not changing your clothes for a week can suddenly seem like becoming a clothes horse, with you donning an apparent new outfit every day. And forget saying, “We’ve seen everything on Netflix.” Even if you have, it will feel like renewing your subscription after a long lapse.

You could eat hamburgers seven days a week and think you’re eating a diverse diet with only the “occasional” guilty pleasure of a burger and fries. Neglecting personal hygiene comes with eventual telltale signs that you haven’t showered in a week, so you wouldn’t have to worry about that aspect of memory loss getting out of hand. And, of course, jogging in your underwear would quite immediately run you afoul of the law, requiring only that you do remember Carol’s phone number when you get that one phone call from the station. (I know her. She’s going to be checking me every time I leave the house for a jog now.)

Eventually, the pandemic will pass, and we’ll go back to all our pre-Covid dementia fretting. Just the other night, neither of us recognized Cate Blanchette. Happily, I sneezed and our fears immediately switched to maybe needing a coronavirus test.

 

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