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I’m Not the Girl I Was at 80




Käthe Kollwitz, "Self Portrait"

What a drag—I have recently been worried about the memory loss I have sort of grown used to over the last few years. I’m not afraid of Alzheimer’s—and I don’t feel unique. Fortunately I get a lot of support from my “fragmented” younger and older friends who assure me that I’m not the only one who is experiencing the well-known list of “senior moments,” including:

“What did I walk into this room to get?”

“ Where are my glasses and keys?”

“I drove right past the post office I always go to!”

“I can’t remember names.”

You probably have your own list.

But when you are almost 85 years old—and have finally chosen to admit it to yourself — it takes on another dimension. How am I supposed to proceed to make life creative and fulfilling in the ways I know best, before I fully accept this new stage? I want a believable diagnosis.

I figure that my choices include “fragmentia” –- a term coined by my smart friend Lois 15 years ago, when she was only in her 50s. “No brain was meant to hold so much information,” she pronounced at the time. That got me through for a long time.

Last week I remembered Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock, written in the 1970s before there were personal computers. I clearly recall his prediction that in the near future we would each have to find our personal sanity zones. There would simply be too much to deal with—too many choices. I checked my own choices today.

I went to the supermarket—where there were definitely too many choices to make. Drove downtown—should I take the freeway or surface streets? Went to a conference, where there were numerous, simultaneous sessions offered–I want to go to them all but had to choose  one. Later I thought about dinner—should I cook, call in or go out? My husband and I decided to stay home. At least here I can open my email— but which ones to read, save, delete or answer? It’s time to relax. I don’t know which TV channel, magazines or book to choose. It doesn’t matter, I’m so tired I’ll probably be in bed at 9 p.m. and asleep, by 10. This is from a retired person with only chosen obligations to fulfill.

I like to think I am between fragmentia and Future (now present) Shock. Or maybe it’s just normal aging. That’s not so bad. but what if my scattered memory is the beginning stage of dementia—just thinking about it is enough to add depression, which of course would make my poor brain even less functional. We all know the rules for deferring dementia — eat, drink and exercise right. Avoid stress. HAH! The holidays are here. Who gets what and why?

Am I losing it? Friends and colleagues are reassuring—but I don’t like it. I made an appointment with my doctor. He will decide if I should see a gerontologist and get a brain scan. Fortunately my appointment is three weeks away so, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about it tomorrow. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll forget to go.

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