Do You Remember Why I’m Here?

 In Aging, SHIFT

It was plain to see that my husband had to be suffering from early-onset dementia. We had borrowed the suitcase from Jane, not Cindy, but he kept insisting. Half way through our verbal ping-pong of “No, it was…” and “You are wrong. I know….”, I had to chuckle. How many times have we laughed at old couples as they argued about such inane things as which side of the road the mailbox was on in their first house? The joke is on us because now we are they!

Aging is a fact of life, the symptom of memory loss being the classic sign. Forgetfulness is the butt of many a joke. I have enjoyed my sideline view of this sport, but now that I have become a player, I fail to see the humor.

It started with going into a room and forgetting why I was there. That was not too worrisome as “kids” half my age confess to this happening to them. Stress is most often the culprit causing this perhaps benign manifestation.

The most alarming change, however, was when I realized I could no longer dazzle my opponents in the great mental game of Rummikub. It had always been the norm that I would pull off a series of moves that could end the game, moving this tile to add onto that string while pulling all the same colored tiles to create a run of sequential tiles…you had to be there, or at least know something about this game. Suffice it to say, the successful Rummikuber is one who can keep an eye on the entire board looking for ways to reorganize, replace and score big which requires multi-tasking and good memory.

It was a few years ago that I got caught in the middle of my big play but could not remember where all the tiles went. There were some grumpy players who had no sense of humor that I had managed to mess up the board, not being able to remember how to every tile I have moved. Something big happened that day. I was deflated, so I stopped trying to make such multi-level moves in future games. It was frightening to realize the loss of that skill.

It was a game. No one is too worried about game-playing prowess, but the worst has been the changes in my regular conversation. I can no longer digress and find the track again. What is worse, I am usually surrounded by like-challenged persons so no one can help guide me back to my train of thought.

What is next? I am horrified to speculate. What I do know is that the reason we slow down as we age is not so much due to our physical limitations, but now there is the need to hold our thoughts close to us so we do not lose them. We can no longer be sure we will land upright on the intended spot when we make mental leaps. Consequently, there is less leaping but rather careful contemplation of every move to not only get to where we intend, but to be able to get back as well.

My hubby may be right about the suitcase. I do so hope not, because I have been counting on being able to keep body and mind together. I do not want us to become two old geezers posturing about minutia.

As I look around, to my surprise there appears to be an up side to this natural phenomenon. I am beginning to notice as my circle shrinks how I see more details and sounds, experiencing a greater depth of emotion. It makes me a little sad to have been such a juggler of things, and even people, that I have missed so much I now see.

Who cares about whose suitcase it was, or not always winning at Rummikub? What I have gained is well worth what I now know is not a loss, but an accepting of the next stage of my life with all its own joys, colors and subtle charms.

My son, who is a poppa of two wee ones, says it has gone full circle as we watch his babies meticulously explore every detail of their surroundings with absolute bright-eyed fascination. They are so amazing to watch as they reach out, expanding their horizons. May we who are aging marvel as much as we experience our worlds narrowing.

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  • j.d. ruby

    Mom… this is beautiful. Honestly. Beautiful. And I fully expect some blood-thirsty games of Rummikub this Thanksgiving!

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