I’ve always been bad at recalling names, so at least I know that isn’t age-related. I’m equally bad at recognising faces. I was often in trouble as a teen for cutting people socially who I had previously been introduced to at family events.
I recently discovered there is such a thing as face-blindness that I may have in a mild form. Prosopagnosia is with you from birth and not a particular feature of ageing. And I’d thought I was just unobservant.
But now it isn’t just names I forget. Some years before I retired, I began to lose words, often fumbling for the term I wanted mid-conversation. Not necessarily long or esoteric ones, but everyday words eluded me.
To supplement my love of logic puzzles, I began writing in retirement as an attempt to exercise the left side of the brain that controls language. (Although, apparently, the right side controls memory as well as logic and numbers.)
Has it helped? I still find myself fishing around the pea-soup of my brain for the word I want that I’m certain exists. I use online thesauruses a lot and sometimes discover the word I’m groping for doesn’t appear to exist after all. (I plan to make up my own when this happens in future.)
Tasks, shopping, storylines… that I think I can’t possibly forget, all disappear into the ether. When I tell myself, ‘I must write that down before I forget it,’ I’ll have forgotten to put it on the calendar, or add it to the shopping list or find my notebook by the time I finish what I am doing. Or I open the notebook and discover I’ve forgotten what I wanted to jot down.
I recently wanted some large sheets of paper and didn’t have any. I decided the next time I had a parcel delivery with its box padded out with crumpled paper, I would flatten the paper, fold it, and keep it for this very purpose.
Amazingly, I remembered to do this when my next delivery arrived. The trouble is, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to save it for.
No doubt I’ll remember when that situation arises again. (Was it for backing something I wanted to spray-paint? Had I wanted to wrap something for posting?)
But will I remember where I’ve put it?
Much more frightening…
…is when I look at things and don’t see them.
This one haunts me since I learned about the first time Sir Terry Pratchett realised for certain that he had a problem – which turned out to be Alzheimers.
Rob Wilkins, Pratchett’s long-term assistant and collaborator on his autobiography, recalls the day Sir Terry complained that the ‘S’ had gone from his computer’s keyboard. He couldn’t find it.
I recalled this account after I’d searched in vain for something I knew was on the table yesterday, and later spotted it exactly where I had been looking earlier. I recall it every time I put a second ‘9’ on a sudoku line, not seeing the one already there.
I pop another omega-3 capsule and vow to increase the number of weekly ‘days off’ from the wine and the whisky. It’s frightening enough to accept the gradual erosion of physical abilities without facing the prospect of, day by day, losing one’s self.
As those days fly past ever faster.