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May 20, 2015: Short and Long Term Memory

To observe one’s parents in middle age is to see oneself in x number of years. Say, if your mother was 26 when she gave birth to you, is to (later) see yourself at the same point in time, 26 years later. You can’t do this when you are young because then seeing 26 years into the future is an unfathomable preposition. But once you pass 50, look out.

I’m at my sister Eleanor’s place in Portland and for the past two days have been spending time with her and with my mother. Yesterday we went to a movie and to dinner. My mother, who yesterday turned 86 now resides in an assisted living facility. It’s an okay place. It has institutional moorings, but the staff, which is fairly relaxed, makes the attendees feel as though the place is a ship, untethered, bobbing close to shore. The woman who doles out the meds is hard to find, and the desk help is equally elusive. There’s a sign in/sign out sheet–

it does not appear to be carefully monitored. I noticed that once mother signed in and signed out on the volunteer log.

El takes Mom out often, usually to her place where Mom spends time with her cat, a semi-feral female who trusts her owner and no one else.

El told me that mom recently had a series of mini-strokes. I deduced that mini strokes are like mini donuts – eat a few and you’ll be okay. Eat a lot and you’re done for. Anyhow, the strokes resulted in short term memory loss. This I found to be true. For example, mother will ask how her estranged husband is doing, then five minutes later, again ask how he’s doing. However, ask mom who her first grade teacher was, and she does not waver in her response. El says that mother reads, but after doesn’t recall what she read. And she doesn’t recall what she’s eaten, meal to meal. Mom is aware of this, and when El was off looking for the elusive meds woman, voiced her concern. I told her that getting all worked up about this would her make memory loss situation worse. We then agreed that this is just the natural order of things.

I did not say what I was thinking, that she’s my mother and I’m her daughter and therefore I inherited half of her DNA. The other 50 percent comes from my father, who also is now suffering from short term memory loss. Oh oh, I am in for it. If I had a history of breast cancer, I might consider having the damn things lopped off. However, one can’t have a chunk of their brain removed.

I, like both my parents, have always been a tad bit absent minded. For example, I cannot cook rice because I will inevitably go and do something else, and then forget about it. And I sometimes have to work at recalling what I did the previous day. It comes back, but recall is slow. So the odds are that I will follow in both my parent’s footsteps and someday have to deal with what in 26 years will be a major problem. I have already experienced this on a small scale. It feels like my mind isn’t as spot on as it used to be.

I should take the advice I gave my mother and not fret about this. But in her presence I feel hyperconscious about this. For instance, yesterday I repeatedly asked El and mother what they thought about Hilary Clinton’s winning the presidency. Neither acknowledged that I repeatedly asked the same question. So maybe El is also (as they say) losing it.

This is unsettling because I don’t want to end up residing on the good ship hopespringseternal, that is dependent upon others to both fill in the blanks and keep a watchful eye on me. I want to safely navigate life’s waters in an independent fashion. And really, there is nothing I can do about this, absolutely nothing at all. I ought not end this narrative on such a dire note. Rather, I should instead give myself a pat on the back when I do remember certain things. In this instance I recalled that the theme of this narrative was – uhh, to look back at one’s parent’s in middle age is to see yourself at their age. Well, so I cheated. I could remember what the theme was. It was close to the surface, but not close enough. I did follow through, and in the only way I knew how, by going back and rereading the first paragraph. At least I didn’t forget what I was looking for. And so, I’m still capable of writing about things like short term memory loss.

Next: 142. 5/30/15: Tired Mother

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