“A long, long time ago and I can still remember” is how one of my favorite songs starts out. American Pie by Don McLean. I love that song and hearing it can instantly transport me back to the ’70’s when I was growing up. Hippies, “Make love not war”, flower power, and “Peace Man.” I, myself was not a hippie. I was too young for one thing and I also like things more in control than what the hippie movement seemed to like. I couldn’t imagine myself ever living in a commune, with free love, and drugs, and sharing everything with everyone. I’d had enough of sharing, having grown up with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Unfortunately I don’t have much in common with the start of that song.
Anyway, this post is not about hippies, the 70’s, or sharing. It is about, how I used to know things that I no longer do. Just yesterday morning while having breakfast with my husband, son and daughter in law, I was reminded again of how much I don’t remember. Things I was once taught but that didn’t have a priority in my everyday life. There was a trivia question on the little “coffee newspaper” my son was reading aloud to us, asking about prime numbers. While I couldn’t remember the prime numbers, or for that matter what even constitutes a prime number, the rest of my group did know. This is something I once knew. I was never very good at math and am not surprised I didn’t retain much memory in the way of math rules, and operations. The disturbing thing is my husband who is older than myself, does remember these things.
I often find myself struggling to remember how to spell words, when I was once a superb speller. Or scrambling to come up with a person’s name. I’ve always been pretty horrible with celebrity’s names and faces, but this has turned into familiar people and places. Most of the time it’s not important enough to get upset over and many times I eventually remember. The instant recall, however, is no longer there.
Another thing I find myself forgetting are famous sayings, axioms, idioms, and proverbs. I’ll only be able to remember half of it. Folk tales fall into this too.
I feel like the Old man who says to the young smart aleck, “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know.”
I do try to challenge my mind with word puzzles and games, and I also do jigsaw puzzles, but it doesn’t really seem like that’s making a difference. Either that or it is making a difference and without it, I’d be really bad off.
Dementia runs in my mom’s family. I remember when I was a young married mom, with 2 small children and my grandmother had gotten to the point that she no longer knew who we were. Such a sad day when we went to visit and she couldn’t recognize us. This was my beloved grandmother whom I used to stay with and play games with. Who had made us comfort food for as long as I could remember, stitched quilts and afghans for us with love. Who entertained crowds with her piano playing. While she could still play the piano, it wasn’t like it had been in her earlier years. Now she’d start a song and then have to stop after a few bars because she couldn’t remember how it was supposed to go. My grandmother played by ear, you see, so couldn’t just read the music and go from there. And it upset her to know she couldn’t remember the songs.
My own mother died before the dementia took over her, although before her death she had experienced bouts with it, partly from injury and the subsequent medication. Her older sister though, has just turned 100 and has not been in her right mind for several years. During a visit a few years ago, she started to tell me how her mother had made everything in her room at the nursing home. While she couldn’t recall the right place and time, she did remember that her mother was extremely talented at sewing and making things.
So, I expect it will happen one day to myself also. I’m hoping I have many years before it does, but every time I forget something else, the thought appears that eventually, I might not know my own family. A fate worse than death, I think.