Friday, July 8, 2016

Thanks for the … uh … memories.




I read the other day that when a mother is pregnant with a boy, some of that boy’s DNA is shared. It travels in the blood up into the mother’s brain, and moves in permanently, kind of like the kids do in their twenties.
The baby DNA doesn’t simply hang around there after it sets up shop, either. It helps to shield the mother from Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s what this learned treatise, probably something I saw on Facebook, claimed.
I gave birth to two sons, and my first thought upon reading that factoid was, it’s not working well enough.
Not that I have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Yet. It’s just that day by day I seem to remember less and less.
Memory lapses can be disturbing. It is no consolation to me that if I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease now, it would be too late for it to be early onset. Being part of the statistical attrition of my aging cohort does not feel like a great honor.
It’s scarier when we get older. We feel the jolt of the blank mind, and we fear the implications. Is this it? Is my brain leaving and taking me and my personality with it? We have all seen this happen to people, people whom we miss. We’ve seen caregivers ground to an exhausted pulp. It ain’t fair and it ain’t right, but it happens.
We find ways to work around the everyday forgetfulness: I always hang my purse in the same place. I always put my keys in the same pocket of the purse. That may sound like pretty simple basic organization. Wasn’t I already doing that? Well, yeah. You can only walk around the house so many times searching everywhere, muttering and cursing and missing ferries, before you decide to take action.
When I park in any large parking lot, I look around before I walk away and orient myself so I know where the car is, and what landmarks are nearby: “Yes, it’s at the end of the row that’s across from the rain shelter.”
I started doing that years ago when I forgot where I was parked in the Thriftway parking lot. I was talking with a friend, having such a good time as we walked out of the store. We said good-bye, and then – what? I had no idea where I’d parked. I was lost in a sea of pavement and Priuses.
Eventually I found my car, but after that I got serious about parking place memorization.
Now I have a car with automatic locks, and if I press the button on the key fob more than once, the car honks and its lights flash. I’ve used that to locate my car a time or two. A friend told me that when she was shopping for cars, using the honking to locate the car was one of the salesman’s selling points. Apparently forgetting where you parked is extremely common.
So, what if I do develop some kind of dementia? Wow. That was a scary sentence to write, but I am at an age when I think about these things. I figure I need to make a plan now for that possibility.
I have a begrudging compassion for people who take their own lives before they lose themselves and become a burden to their families and society. Begrudging because in general people who commit suicide make me angry – you idiot, we still needed you – but I understand people who are suffering and feel like their lives have nothing left to offer them, even if their lives still have plenty to offer the people who love them. I understand. Sort of. I guess. Okay, I don’t.
A medical person once remarked to me that while the short term memory fizzles out and disappears, the long term memory stays like a layer of mud in which the person is caught forever. Well, yes and no. I do have vivid memories of the past, but this morning I had an earworm of a song from 1960: “It was an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini …” *
Now that is a long term memory I could do without. Too bad we can’t choose the memories we lose.

*Released in June 1960 on the Kapp record label, sung by Bryan Hyland. Written by Paul Vance & Lee Pockriss. It was a hit around the world, covered many times, and Vance described it as “a money machine” because he made millions of dollars from the royalties over the years.
Gee, I wish I’d written one like that.

2 comments:

Don Joseph said...

Well said Mary and...I forgot what I was going to say...

Anonymous said...

Now I have that ear worm. Nice article. The fear of losing one's memory is a real one. Thanks for addressing the issue.