While savoring my fourth or fifth cup of morning coffee (Boy! How I love to lead off with that), I reflect on the ills and inconveniences of being old enough to have achieved geezerhood. Perhaps achieved is the wrong word, maybe “sentenced to” might be more appropriate. I am at that stage of life where I have fewer and fewer friends and relatives simply because I’ve outlived them. That is not to say I am any better in any way. I have just been lucky to have inherited good genes. The routine aches and pains and bothers that come as part of the package are apparently unavoidable and just have to be endured. Stoicism and fatalism make it a bit easier to swallow.
The irritants that make me most frustrated and angry are the greater frequency of brain farts, and the momentary losses of focus and the lack of short term memory. My observations of other geezers and my overhearing of their stumbling conversations have brought me to pay close attention to both theirs and my own conversations, and I have developed a theory of sorts that may or may not make sense.
We, who have lived long enough to have entered geezerhood, were trained, and we bludgeoned ourselves, to remember, remember, remember those many thousands of bits of information and lectures and course materials and technical specifications and laws and relationships, and so on ad infinitum. So we filled up our cranial recesses with millions upon millions of bits and pieces of “stuff.” Some of that info-burden was then, and still is, vital and useful. Unfortunately, much of it would be better in the compost bin if only we could unload it. Sadly, we humans don’t have a “delete” button or an “empty trash bin” button as our computers do.
My theory (if you’ll grant it that grand term) is that we get to a point of the overload of useless and irrelevant information, and we have to fight our way through that jungle of no longer pertinent “stuff.” After all, Aunt Maude has been gone for 50 years and we no longer need to remember the names of her six kids and their spouses. We no longer need to remember Doc Sorensen’s phone number, nor do we need to remember just which Bible passage to quote to Miss Lucy to calm her when she gets overwrought.
There are literally thousands of books and courses and mnemonic tricks to help us develop better, stronger memories. What would be really useful to us oldsters would be a method of erasing useless and outdated memories. If we (some person a whole lot smarter than me) could figure a means of ridding us geezers of that miasma of bothersome crud that clouds our thought mechanisms, every geezer in existence would rejoice and shout with joy.
It is far too common to see a geezer looking pained and beginning to sweat in an effort to remember something important to the moment. If they are lucky, we can see a look of great relief suddenly come over their face and we hear them say, “Oh, thank God, I thought I’d lost my mind.”
The mind hasn’t been lost at all, it was just having to weed through a lifetime’s accumulation of useless data that was hiding the good stuff. It is embarrassing and infuriating to experience this mental traffic jam, but it is shared with most other geezers and we all understand and sympathize. I am anything but a physician or clinician, but I have a strong hunch that if a relief or cure for this can be found, the discoverer will have lines of geezers miles long with money in hand, eager to buy that panacea no matter the price.
We old folks can tolerate many of the things that are part and parcel of getting old, but having to struggle to dredge up a memory is one of the most frustrating things imaginable. Being old has its compensations (a few), but there ought to be a memory pill or turbocharger we could engage. One of the irritating things about this is, we can clearly remember the first prom date or the first successful hunt or the first blue ribbon at the county fair, but we can’t remember where we left the car keys or what we had for dinner last night.
I have found, for me, when I have one of those brain farts, it helps a lot to just disengage, just let it go for a bit and usually the needed memory will come floating to the surface. Sometimes it pays to actually try to forget what it was, then usually it’ll come to me about 3 a.m. when I sit bolt upright in bed and shout, “I got it!” Thus waking the wife and cats and dogs. The point being, just try to relax, don’t strain about it, and the loosening of the mental knots seems to allow the remembering mechanism to function.
I have seen both men and women cry from frustration and embarrassment when fishing for a particular memory. It is not so bad to experience it when in the company of folks one’s own age because they truly understand. I also believe just the fear alone of misplacing a memory contributes to the malaise of those moments.
Having lived long enough to experience these problems is a real pain in the neck, but there are a few compensating factors. Getting this far in life when, at age 40, I just knew that I’d never live this long, is a thrill. Now that I’ve made it this far, I am determined to keep up the momentum and go for a century. Why not? All I have to do is hang around long enough.
Now, if I can just remember where I left those whatchamacallits.