Surprise—my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I feel like all my storage capacity has been filled, and it takes longer and longer to access my data, like an old worn out computer.
When I was a young adult, I could tell you the name of every teacher I’d ever had, from kindergarten to grad school. Now I can tell you only a handful of professors’ names, and few high school teacher’s names, but I do still remember my teachers from kindergarten to grade 6. Why do I remember names from childhood, but not from college?
Not that my memory was ever all that great. All my life I’ve had frequent bouts of panic when I couldn’t find my keys, my glasses, my wallet. And for decades I’ve walked into rooms without recalling why I wanted to be there.
About twenty-five years ago I had episodes while driving when I didn’t recognize where I was or remember where I was heading. After a few weeks of this, I asked my bible study group to pray for me. I was afraid I was going to have to surrender my driver’s license. Afterward, a woman asked me if I was taking antihistamines, as a friend of hers had experienced the same symptoms. At first, I said no, but then I realized my nasal spray was an antihistamine. I stopped using it, and a few days later my disorientation disappeared.
When my husband returned home last year after surgical complications and an extended stay in a skilled nursing facility, I was overwhelmed with his medication schedule, his doctor appointments, his physical therapy requirements, and the maintenance his feeding tube required. Suddenly there was so much to remember, and my brain was not up to it.
A few years earlier I had started a notebook with all our medical information; I just had to remember to keep it updated and bring it with me to appointments (since I couldn’t remember what tests he’d had, what the results were, or all the medicines he was taking). I sat down with the medications Greg came home from the rehab facility with, and made a chart of when he took what. I still refer to my (updated) chart each week as I set up his morning 7-day pillbox and his evening 7-day pillbox, and made sure they’re refilled regularly.
Nevertheless, mistakes happen. I get them mixed up. So far, no fatal errors, but each one raises my stress level.
I made an appointment with the neurologist, who administered tests that show I don’t have Alzheimer’s, thank God, but I do have mild cognitive disfunction. I now take medication twice a day that’s supposed to prevent my memory from deteriorating further.
I don’t think it’s 100% effective, but I’ve stopped panicking about it.
The funny thing is, every once in a while something will pop into my head—a vivid memory of an incident from the past that I’ll realize I haven’t thought about in decades. Sometimes it will be triggered by a whiff of an aroma, or a song from my childhood.
My oldest son has the most amazing memory. He remembers things that happened when he was a baby, and he can pinpoint the year of events that are fuzzy in my recollections. He remembers actors in movies, and which movies won Oscars in which years, and all sorts of trivia.
Maybe memory skips generations. I don’t know.