After recently writing about losing my keys, I decided to share why this annoying act of garden variety might have deeper implications. A dozen years after witnessing my mother’s cognitive deterioration, it’s disturbing that I too am a sitting duck for dementia. As the child most like her, wouldn’t I have also inherited something beyond the color of her eyes and her hair?
It’s not fair that dementia is rampant on my dad’s side of the family as well, increasing my chances of winning the memory impairment competition. Isn’t that a kick in the head (which would only serve to exacerbate cognitive problems)? ! Sometimes I wonder if a moderately hard blow to the head could actually improve my chances of survival. It’s a thought, a thought I can still entertain – at least for now.
When you know you’re a likely candidate for dementia, what drives you especially crazy is the inevitable tendency to self-monitor symptoms. The question that still looms in the shadows is, “Was the mistake I made just a mistake, stupidity, or a simple oversight of a detail – or is this the beginning of my losing wits?” ? The fact that I can still monitor myself should be reassuring, but that’s not when an insidious enemy can hunt me down.
While I was still in possession of my own mind (I would say the “right” mind, but I don’t want that to be taken as a directional observation, juxtaposed with my “left” mind, or the logical side of my brain, where my reading, writing and numeracy skills emanate and allow me to have deeper thoughts), I have the luxury of wondering if my brain, like other parts of the body, runs the may wear out from excessive use.
What do I mean? You probably already know this, based on your own experience of years of overthinking, worrying, obsessing, mentally replaying events with recriminations of shoulda, woulda, coulda and wasting too much time. to imagine the worst scenarios that rarely occur. pass. Over time, can a stinky thought erode a person’s brain capacity? Only time will tell. Perhaps that’s why our country and the world have become such stupid places: thought overdrive has fried many once rational minds.
My son is pragmatic with his advice regarding my potential dementia: “Better to start taking memory-enhancing drugs now so you don’t end up like Grandma, or at least not as bad.” Couldn’t hurt. Decent advice, but he can skip it. There may be other causal explanations and non-pharmaceutical interventions to help me retain my mental faculties for as long as possible.
Article by Angela Haupt in the Washington Post, “Losing your keys doesn’t mean you’ve lost your mind. Here’s how to find your stuff” (February 22, 2022), reports another reason for losing items such as keys, and the observations of Harvard University Schacter Memory Lab Director Daniel Schacter:
“A lot of the time losing stuff results from what I call distraction,” Schacter explains, “it’s a breakdown at the interface of attention and memory, where we focus on something other than the object we are going to lose. . . . We think about something else, and then we never really encode the information in memory about where we placed the object because we have other concerns occupying our attention.
I recognize the truth in this and I especially like how it takes me away from dementia praecox. Who in my genetic shoes wouldn’t prefer the image of an inattentive, distracted professor to that of someone whose hippocampus and entorhinal cortex are off to lunch and beckoning to the rest of the gray matter of the person to accompany them? ! But alas, an explanation of how forgetting works cannot completely negate the potential problem of dementia for me.
Another possibility, according to Haupt: ADHD is often a factor that causes people to lose things. Now that’s worthy of consideration. However, lately, I’ve been turning to an unlikely source of solace, the lyrics to Mary Poppins Returns’ “Where the Lost Things Go,” “Memories you’ve hanged, gone for good you feared; they’re still all around you, though they are gone. Nothing is truly left, or lost without a trace; nothing is gone forever, only irrelevant.
May I never find myself as lost as my set of house and car keys.
Kristy Smith’s comedy chronicles Different Drum are archived on her blog: diffdrum.wordpress.com.