Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
MEMORY READY TO FADE
OK, the clock is ticking. You have exactly one year to tell me something and reasonably expect that I’ll remember it. A year from now, however, all bets are off.
A few weeks ago, as I was driving down the highway, I heard a doctor on the radio say that memory loss begins at age 45. Since I just turned 44, I remember every detail. It was Dr. Dean Edell’s syndicated show; he was discussing brain function and the aging process; when he went to a break, there was a commercial for an herbal supplement; I was wearing a light blue shirt and gray pants; when the show resumed, Dr. Dean began talking about male pattern baldness; moments later, I missed my exit.
Apparently, if I hear a similar broadcast next year, not only will I miss my exit, but as soon as I turn the radio off, I’ll have no idea whether I was just listening to a medical show or medley of Frank Sinatra tunes. On the other hand, I won’t need to remember the color of my pants as I likely will have forgotten to wear pants in the first place.
I don’t want to brag, but I have a pretty good memory right now. Most of my memory skills, however, are the direct result of being lazy. (You know the old saying: “Laziness is the mother of invention.”) I don’t like to take notes or plan things in advance, so I just “wing it” most of the time. More often than not my memory keeps me out of hot water. For example, when I walked into the office the other day, my boss said, “Hey Dunn, do you have the sales report that’s due today?”
I replied, “Oh…yeah, of course,” as my memory kicked into gear and recalled what kind of car my boss drives. “I just saw the strangest thing,” I continued. “Three punks were out in the parking lot trying to hot-wire a green Jetta.”
As my boss sprinted out the front door, I yelled to a co-worker, “When he comes back in, tell him I had to go see a customer,” and sprinted out the back door to race home and begin writing the sales report.
A year from now, if I say “blue Oldsmobile,” it won’t be nearly as effective. And if I do happen to remember “green Jetta,” I’ll probably sprint out the back door, race home, and say to myself as I pull into the driveway, “Why did I come home? What am I suppose to be doing now?” And a few years after that, I’ll probably be racing home and wonder, “Um, where do I live? I know it’s around here somewhere.”
Even though my memory might be considered above average, it is very selective. I can recall key numbers from 1967 (Carl Yaztrzemski’s Triple Crown stats: .326, 44, 121) but not my wife’s birthday (I’m pretty sure it’s during the summer). I can spout the details of my first trip to Fenway Park as a youngster (Jose Tartabull’s pitch-hit single beat the Athletics in extra innings; I had five hotdogs) but I have no recollection of our first date (“Well, maybe we never had a first date. Maybe we were introduced to each other on our wedding day like they do in foreign countries, such as Utah”). I know precisely what I’ll be doing tonight (first pitch is 7:05 p.m., WTIC radio, 1080 AM, Pedro Martinez going against Andy Pettitte), but I forgot to pick up my daughter at school yesterday (“Um, what school does she go to?”).
Do you notice a pattern here? The important pieces of information go right in one ear and out the other, while the data that seems to get permanently stored in my memory banks is completely useless—other than on those rare occasions when the “Jeopardy” category is “Baseball Trivia,” which, come to think of it, since I watch the show from my couch rather than as a contestant in the studio, means it’s still pretty useless.
So maybe if my memory begins to fade next year, it won’t have much on an impact on my day-to-day life after all. It might force me to start taking notes and planning ahead, and even though I won’t be able to spout off the correct answer before Alex finishes reading the clue, I will be more prepared when key family events occur.
The most important thing I’ll have to do, of course, to get ready for my 45th birthday next year is, uh, is, hmm…gee, I was just thinking about it. I’d better start taking notes right now. Have you seen my pen?
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