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When I’m eighty and worried that Alzheimer’s is setting in, remind me that nothing out of the ordinary is going on. Since at least my mid-thirties, I’ve had moments when the ‘little gray cells’ go on vacation temporarily. It may have started earlier, I forget. Two incidents stand out among the run-of-the-mill forgetting-why-I-opened-the-refrigerator and heading-for-the-library-without-the-books types.
Scene One: It had been a hectic morning. My head was spinning as I went from phone calling to carrot chopping to bandaging owies to scooping out muffin batter to checking math lessons to (well, you get the picture). Suddenly I realized it had been a while since the last head count. “1,2,3, where’s the baby?” I looked all around, in the pantry, under the table, behind the sofa and in the dog kennel. There was Boy-With-Finger-in-Nose and Brother-Who-Tell-All and Little-Man-Who-Take-Apart, but where was Baby-Glued-to-Side? I called frantically up the stairs for help from Sister-Right-Arm who looked down in calm confusion and announced (in that sort of superior tone she takes with poor silly mom) that the missing infant was perched on my hip fast asleep. Imagine my surprise!
Scene Two – The Grocery Store: I’d plowed through the weekly shopping in organized style – list laid out according to the store’s floor plan and derived from a week’s worth of frugal but nutritious meal plans. So far so good. I patted myself on the back for remembering, for a change, to wait for the cash back from the comfortably-within-budget check I’d written for the groceries. (The cashier, prepared to sprint after me, was pleasantly surprised.) I was full of the smug satisfaction that comes from passing up the $2.09 per pound roasting chicken for $.89 fryers and turning up my nose at dozens of prepared sauces, easy dinner packs, and frozen meals in favor of homemade. I pulled into the driveway, content and self-congratulating; delighting in the tableau of Children Waiting to Help Unload that greeted my arrival.
The rosy glow faded when my daughter, looking into the van in calm confusion, asked (in a slightly superior tone), “Where’s the groceries?” Back I drove at top (legal) speed to find the drive-through pickup clerk waiting patiently beside my cart with a knowing grin. As I hopped out, apologizing for the ‘delay’ in meeting him, he kindly reassured me. “Don’t worry. One time I had a lady get all the way home before she remembered to get her stuff! Can you believe that?” Well, yes, I could, but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to discuss the weirdness of women with him.
I hope that keeping this ‘historical perspective’ will give me a healthy resilience if I grow more forgetful as I age. If I can’t laugh at me, I’ll be the only one not getting a kick out of times like these. I’d like it to be said of me, (to paraphrase G.K.Chesterton) that “She flies, because she takes herself lightly”!
(This article first appeared in Canticle Magazine, when I still had sleeping babies on my hip. Since then, I’ve probably had more senior moments, but nothing has topped these, so I’m not worried!)