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Wednesday, 09 July 2008

Where Did I Leave My Glasses?

By Claire Jean

Does this question sound familiar?

Where Did I Leave My Glasses, by Martha Lear was nestled among many books on the “new book” shelf at my local library and caught my attention immediately for two reasons. First, the title (obvious!). Second, the author’s name. Ms. Lear wrote her memoir, Heartsounds, a best seller in the 1980s in which she candidly describes events that took place both privately and professionally in her life when her late husband, surgeon Harold Lear, became a patient.

Beginning with chapter one in Where Did I Leave My Glasses, I learned that my thoughts and concerns were normal, and I had a lot of company. This expertly researched and wonderfully written book put my mind at ease (for now, at least).

I say this, because prior to reading this book, something happened that gave me quite a start: I dreamt something and was convinced it was real. Insistence on my part went on for over a week, until finally it was proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, not to be true.

My daughter thought perhaps I was not getting proper sleep. But, thank goodness, in her book, Ms. Lear explains that dream-reality phenomena are not that rare, and therefore, no reason for alarm. I can now put my daughter’s suggestion to rest (no pun intended).

This book has equipped me to better handle so-called “senior moments,” as they arise, with honesty, acceptance, some humor and a lot less fear and embarrassment.

At the back of her book, Ms. Lear invites her readers to share their most embarrassing memory lapses (Where Did I Leave My Memories?) with her, and so here’s mine.

As an advocate for the institutionalized elderly in New Jersey, I see people with varying stages of dementia. Upon entering residents’ rooms, I greet them by name. Sometimes, if they can’t remember my name or have no recollection of ever seeing me before, I assure them that if it were not for their chart in my hand with their name clearly printed, as well as their name displayed on the door, I, too, might not remember them.

As we continue to talk and forgetfulness comes into play, I’ve asked them to picture a filing cabinet filled with all of the information they’ve compiled throughout the years and consider the amount of time it might take sorting out and coming up with one specific piece of information. This explanation made perfect sense to me, until -

One day, while visiting with a resident, we discovered that we both grew up in the same city in New Jersey. The excitement was building as we talked at length about the good old days there.

Among other things, our city was known for its restaurants. She, at 80-plus, could not remember the names of the well-known restaurants and looked to me for help. I, at 60-plus, suddenly went blank. The names of the restaurants should have gushed from my mouth with the force of Niagara Falls. Instead, it was as though someone had just erected a dam. I was terribly ashamed at my desperate attempts in trying to remember.

It was an alarming experience. What was happening to me? This happens to them, not me. Sadly, I could not continue to give more of what this resident longed for. It would have to wait until the next visit when I had time to sort out my own cluttered brain.

My mother died at age 94 and was sharp as a tack until the end reminding me of things I needed to know as well as some things I’d rather forget. Ms. Lear suggests in her book that sometimes it’s genes. If that’s the case, I’ve missed out.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

This is an excellent post and book review. Our mother's body gave out when she was 91 but her mind was sharp to the end. My sister and I both are always "looking for our glasses" and wonder why we don't have mom's shart mental abilities.

A young friend of mine (40) who visits once a week sent me this. Sorry it's so long.

"I was recently diagnosed with AAADD - Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder this is how it manifests itself:
I decide to water my flower pots in the front garden.
As I go to turn on the hose I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
I go to get the car keys from the porch and then notice the post on the porch table.
I decide to go through the post before I wash the car.
I put my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the bin under the table, and notice that the bin is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the rubbish first.
But then I think, I can run down to the post-box when I take out the rubbish, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my cheque book off the table, and see that there is only one cheque left.
My other cheque book is in the computer desk, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Coke I'd been drinking.
I'm going to look for my other cheque book, but first I notice the Coke is getting warm so I decide to put it in the fridge.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the window ledge catches my eye -they need water.
I put the Coke on the window ledge and discover my reading glasses that I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my computer desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers.
I put the glasses back down on the window ledge, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote. I must have left it on the kitchen table.
I realise that tonight when I go to watch TV, I'll be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the living room where it belongs, but first I'll water the
flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but some spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table, get a towel and wipe up the spill.
Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
The flower pots aren't watered;
The car isn't washed;
The bills aren't paid;
There is a warm can of Coke sitting on the window ledge;
The flowers in the vase don't have enough water;
There is still only one cheque in my cheque book;
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses;
I have absolutely NO idea what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to work out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all damn day, and I'm really tired.
I realise this is a serious problem and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail.
Do me a favour. Forward this message to everyone I know, because I don't remember who the hell I've sent it to.

Don't laugh - if this isn't you yet, your day is coming! "

I thought "boy that's me to a T. Is she's trying to tell me something about my forgetfulness", but, no. She said it happens to her, so I'm not to worry.

Love the sound of Martha Lear's book and will look for a copy.

Do not worry, Claire Jean. Perhaps your mother forgot things as well, but just didn't mention it. We tend to forget the unimportant and I doubt that the name of a restaurant would be high on your list of big issues.

I find it so frustrating that I will forget a word I am searching for right in the middle of a sentence and have to pause and look blank. Of course, I remember the word in the middle of the night and I'll bet the names of the restaurants came back to you in a similar fashion.

I am 83 years old and no longer sharp as a tack, but it doesn't worry me. I figure I'm entitled to forget things once in awhile.
As the doctor said, "If you forget where you left your car keys it's normal. If you forget you have a car, you're in trouble."

Hi Claire Jean,

So many times I can't remember a person's name or the name of a book.

Usually, I start down the alphabet and when I come to the right letter a little bell goes off in my brain and I begin to get a mental glimpse of the information I am looking for.I think your brain is like a computer. You have stored that information somewhere so you send Internet Explorer to look for it. It doesn't always find it right away.

Then, out of the blue, when you aren't thinking about it ,the name pops up. Now, you have brought that memory to the front of your brain and the next time you try for that info, it will be right there, because you have refiled it in a current file; not one from 30 years ago.

If you really start to think of the names of those restaurants that eluded you ,you will recall them and then you will look very smart a week later when someone asks about that place and you are able to come up with the name instantly, because it's in a current file.

This is why I like to look at picture albums from the old days. Every picture brings up a name and a place and that data is filed under "Current" in the Internet Explorer of your mind.

Now, where did I put my glasses?

I have trouble remembering things like that (not all the time, though). My birth mom, however, is as sharp as a tack at age 85, so I am not sure who I take after...LOL

Thanks to all for the comments...They are truly terrific!

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