Boomer Musings- Thanks for the Memories

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By J. Leslie Riseden

It has happened to all of us. You
are in a familiar setting, and see a
familiar face smiling across the
room. As that person approaches,
your mind “goes blank”, and for
some unknown reason, you just
cannot recall that person’s name. So,
you carry on a congenial conversation,
and hope that you’re not found
out. You also hope that a third party
doesn’t join the conversation,
requiring you to make introductions.
If you’re lucky, you have a
spouse or partner with whom you
have a long-standing secret code: “If
I don’t introduce you, it’s because I
don’t know his name. HELLLLLLP!”
At this point, your rescuer will
introduce himself, or – if he knows
the person’s name – will say something
like “Well, Walter
Schneckenberger, how in the world
are you?” I’m fortunate enough to
have such a co-conspirator, and I
have been saved from mortification
more times than I can count.
Memory is such a fickle thing, isn’t
it? I used to marvel at the fact that
my nonagenarian father had trouble
telling me what he had for lunch, but
could easily recall the name of his
own father’s supervisor from back in
the 1920s. Of course, this is attributable
to the phenomenon of “shortterm”
versus “long-term” memory
(and the fact that he had told the
story about his father’s supervisor
innumerable times.)
Now well into my sixties, I find
there are tiny little things that I have
trouble remembering on command:
What do you call that flat gray
primer paint on vehicles? What is
the name of that decorative thing
that screws on the top of a lampshade?
Who was Carter’s Vice
President? Where in the world did I
put that little eyeglass repair kit?
Then, at some unexpected moment,
the answer will come to me as I’m
washing dishes or driving down the
highway: Bondo. Finial. Mondale.
And … nope, still don’t know where
the eyeglass repair kit is.
In many cases, this temporary
(and common) memory loss can be
expensive. How many times have I
come home with a gallon of laundry
detergent only to find that I already
picked one up a week ago? When I
moved into my father’s house, I was
amused to find that he had duplicates
– triplicates, even – of many
household items. A can opener, a
set of Allen wrenches, windshield
wiper fluid. I have come to realize,
now, that it’s probably because he
couldn’t find the first one – or forgot
he even had it – and just bought
another. A few months ago, I discovered
I actually had five packages
of egg noodles in the pantry,
because every time I went to the
grocery store, I didn’t recall that I
had picked up a package last time.
(Tonight’s special: Pasta Alfredo.
Again.)
I went through the junk drawer
three times before conceding definitively
that the eyeglass repair kit just
wasn’t there. (Why is it that we continue
looking for a misplaced item
in the same place?) I spent a whole
morning looking in every corner
and container for that kit. I knew it
had to be here somewhere. Never
found it. So, the next trip to the
store, I stood gazing at that devilish
display of last-minute items we are
forced to stare at while waiting in
line. Chapstick? Batteries? Hand
sanitizer? Nope, got all that. But I do
need an eyeglass repair kit. This
time, I’ll put it in a logical place,
where I’ll be sure to find it. I’ll stuff
it down in my glasses case. But, it
won’t fit. Something is blocking the
way. What is it? Oh. An eyeglass
repair kit. Two of them.

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