Susan arrived at my faculty office for her appointment. She had been my advisee for three years and was enrolled in two of my courses. I knew Susan well, but when I greeted her I could not remember her name. Finally it came floating up in my memory. A few days later the same thing happened with David. I was 57 years old.
Over the next decade, my ability to rapidly recall names and some words gradually faded. I had previously recalled names easily, usually knowing all students by name in my courses, even 50 or more, within a few weeks. But then, even in small classes, I began having to point at students whom I knew well but could not call by name for class discussion. I no longer was the smartest person in the room, and I retired from CSU at age 66.
I learned to say, “Having a senior moment.” Lately, I admit to “memory lapses.” I fear perhaps progressing to “pre-dementia” that my doctor once mentioned. “Early senility” sounds like inoperable cancer of the memory. Few of my senior friends will mention the dreaded a-word.
My doctor advised crossword puzzles, acquiring new knowledge, physical activity, and good nutrition. He knows there is no cure for the a-word.
I write copious post-it notes to myself. I say my name when meeting a casual friend, hoping s/he will reciprocate. I keep note cards with lists of words I may want to recall.
I work NY Times crossword puzzles. I take Front Range Forum adult courses at the Senior Center. I walk and exercise rigorously for an octogenarian. I do not buy mail order cures for memory loss!
There are advantages to memory lapses. I enjoy rereading classics from my youth long after I have forgotten why I loved them. Many memories from long ago remain vivid and precious. Recent memories are more often ephemeral.
My greatest concern is end-of-life options. Final relief from extreme pain may be available but not relief from a living death of the a-word. Emerging choices for death-with-dignity require conscious informed consent near the end. What if I cannot remember where I hid my final option?
If you know me casually, will you say your name when we meet? Do not ask whether I remember my own name! I hope I can remember to send this item to my editor. I could tie a string around my finger. Would I remember why it is there? We all live in the now.