A few days ago I sat down to write a Happy Birthday email to my son-in-law’s mother.
As I searched for the address, I realized I couldn’t remember her last name.
A last name she shares with my son-in-law, my daughter, my grandchildren and even my great grandchild.
I stared at the screen, aghast. How could I not remember a name that is so familiar to me? How could I not remember my daughter’s married name! She’s been married for 25 years!
The weight of the blankness was visceral, my heart pounding, my breath quick and short. I felt weak, heavy in my chair. How could I not know!?
I sat at my desk waiting silently for my thoughts to stop echoing the same ugly, terrifying, question. How could I not know?
Eventually I accepted reality—which both frightened and saddened me as the words ‘not know’ transformed into ‘not remember.’
Out loud, I said the names of my daughter and her husband. Said them again. After the third time saying their names out loud, finally, their complete names came to my mind.
It’s a strange experience to witness my own mental decline. It often feels like I’m a distant and distanced on-looker, a voyeur, watching from afar in disbelief at the downward trajectory of my mental health.
For the most part, I think I function quite well. I write, I garden, I keep a neat and clean home. I do the laundry, embroider, read. I try to be honest with myself about what I no longer feel capable of. I can’t play the piano anymore, and I’m having trouble making many of my old tried and true recipes. I often can’t find the right word when I’m trying to relate an experience or tell a story. (Oh, I used to be such a good story teller!) Many of my losses I attribute to aging and pretty much accept as ‘normal.’ Then something like this memory lapse happens. It catches me off guard and unnerves me. Truly this is not normal.
It’s a new chink in my armor.
After I remembered the last name, I busied myself with baking bread, but a new question gnawed at me: should I tell Keith? I silently argued with myself. If I tell him, he’s likely to get upset, make more out of ‘it’ than it is. Maybe he’ll react in the extreme, and think I need constant watching. No, I shouldn’t tell him.
But maybe he needs to know about the chink. He’s been trying to be more accepting, rather than trying to fix. And, as with any incurable condition, he should be aware of ‘changes.’
Yes, I will tell him. Primarily because I need a hug.