Unlike American movie stars and models, as I age, I’m not going to pretend that 65 is the new 37. Time is marching on, and it takes a little bit away every day, every year, no matter how we try to smooth things over, tighten things up, deft the law of gravity. I’m as vain as the next woman, but I know when it’s time to concede defeat. Or if not that, then to accept as gracefully as possible that time is, indeed, marching on, and not slowing down even as we are.
Looks are one thing; watching them fade dismal enough. But when you start getting forgetful, and it’s more than the usual walking into the room and realizing you have no clue what you’re doing there, it’s easy to assume the worst. I’m not being alarmist when I tell you that five million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the disease that messes up your brain cells so they no long perform like a well-practiced string quartet. Alzheimer’s Disease is a physical malady that begins with mental and behavioral symptoms and ends with, well, the end. It is inexorable, and it is terminal.
Pardon me for letting my angst out, but my own mother and her two brothers died with, or because of, Alzheimer’s. Scientists know there’s a genetic component, at least in the early-onset form. We grown children of these unlucky five million worry that we have seen our own future, and it is grim. If we lose something, if we forget how to do something, we panic.
Take my iPod and headphones. Last week I was sure someone had done just that. I remembered tossing them into my work bag as I left, but could I find them once I got home? No, I could not. I emptied the bag, and my purse; went back to work and cased the joint. I even talked with a security guard, who kindly looked through the tapes from the camera near my office door. He saw an employee enter, then exit. He knew her, and declared, “She would never steal anything.” Fine.
Two days later, while making last-minute preparations for the trip, I grabbed the tote I always pack for car trips, and started to put my water bottle and fruit in it. But there was already something in there. You guessed it – the iPod, the headphones. I had spent almost two days sending hate rays to my imaginary thief, when I wasn’t kicking myself for having no memory that would lead me to them.
Of course I felt relieved, but I also felt that old worry start to gnaw. Why did I not remember putting them in the tote bag? Could it be that I was just too good at packing? (This is called “Looking on the Sunny Side of Life.” Not exactly my theme song.)
The trip lasted only two days, and I was back at home, unpacking, when it occurred to me that although I knew I had taken my pathetically long list of passwords, I had not found it while emptying my bags. Oh, no. Not again. I ranted to my long-suffering husband, who gets to hear about every “missing” scissors, every “irretrievably lost” high school yearbook, every “stolen” necklace, before I sheepishly tell him I’ve found it.
He suggested I look in my suitcase. I replied I already had – every last compartment, every little pouch. Early the next morning, I thought, Okay. Maybe I didn’t look in that one zippered pocket on the outside. So I shouldered my way into the storage room, hauled out my suitcase, unzipped the zipper, and, what do you know. I wouldn’t have to change my 345 passwords after all.
It isn’t just technology. I have lost track of entire boxes of cereal, dresses my mother made me that I vowed to keep, old-fashioned address books filled with contact information of my most important people. I suppose losing tech items is scarier because whoever finds them can steal your identity and order B-movies off your Netflix account, email inappropriate letters to your cousins in your name, post embarrassing photos of some naked person tagged as you on Facebook. We depend on our tech toys so much, we’re lost when they go missing.
The worst, of course, is the phone I lost. It was my first smart phone, and I guess I wasn’t intelligent enough to keep tabs on it. It disappeared on a trip. We checked the gas station, the side of the road, anywhere it might have strayed. We called the number, didn’t hear it ring, but ransacked the car anyway. I finally gave up and, using Bob’s phone and the number my daughter looked up for me (she was working at her library, so it counted as a reference question), had my carrier deactivate the thing. I changed my passwords anyway, again cursing both myself for losing it and the clown who stole it.
Yesterday, I went out with a flashlight to search the car for the clip that clamps the garage door opener to the sun visor. I found pens and candy wrappers, popcorn and nickels, but no clip. One last time, I shone the light into the narrow space between the driver’s seat and the console. Something purple sat wedged in the minuscule space. I recognized it because it looks just like the new phone I bought to replace it. (The clip? Still missing.)
So I found a great quote, about wisdom and age and the acceptance of forgetting, with which to end this. I’ll insert it as soon as I locate it. I swear, it was here just a minute ago.