I forgot how to write the number six today. I was in a meeting with my boss and I couldn’t write the number six. Ironically, there were six people seated at the conference table in the air conditioned room. My chair swiveled on the carpeted floor as I tried to concentrate on moving my pen on sheet of paper in front of me. I knew I should be making eye contact with the person seated at the head of the table, but if only I could get this written down first. I needed to just make the lines or curves or squiggles in my notes. What the hell! What is the matter with my brain? It has a circle in it, right? It’s not a balloon. Why does this look like the start of a letter g to me? Am I writing g or 6? Fuck it. Now my boss has noticed that my pen has stopped moving and I am staring at my paper like it is the enemy. Because it has turned into the enemy.
Later, in the lunch room, my colleagues were all discussing the various movies they have seen recently. I silently ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I can tell you how these conversations typically go when I am asked directly:
“Have you seen <insert any random movie title here>?” I can tell you how I compensate for my lack of remembering. I counter with, tell me what genre it is. And then I will tell you, I don’t watch movies like that. Because, as I have already mentioned, I don't remember any of them. No matter what you tell me, I will most certainly tell you I don’t watch that type of movie. Or, sometimes I will change it up with, I can’t sit long enough to watch a whole movie. I get distracted and wander away to go fold laundry or wash dishes. Unless I am called out by my husband or one of my daughters. Then they look at me with an impatient roll of the eyes and tell me that I watched the movie with them. Lately I’ve noticed that my youngest daughter has caught on to my secret and will cover for me. She will say things like, well, mom was napping through the movie or she was reading a book while she was watching with us. I’m not sure if she is really helping me or if this is by accident. I don’t want to ask for fear of scaring her.
I cannot remember the vacations we took. My husband and I went on fabulous adventures before children and with our children. He is the keeper of all these memories. We have pictures of some of our trips framed and scattered in various rooms of our home. These will sometimes trigger questions or spark an almost memory. Where were we when the beer was colder than when that man bought it? The Yankee game in Baltimore. Where were we when we saw the baby bear who lost his mama and the guide was feeding him apples? That was Yellowstone. When was it that we had really good hot chocolate? That was in the Grand Canyon. My husband has the memory of an elephant. At least I think he does. I wouldn’t know if he didn’t as I wouldn’t remember.
As the mom, it is expected that I am supposed to remember everything and keep track of things. I have all doctor appointments and sporting events memorized and in my head. I have musical concerts and the dates for parent/teacher conferences ready to pull out of thin air. I know when the car repair appointments and oil changes are due. I know when to take the dog to the vet. I am juggling a lot of information all the time. I have all of this data up in my brain. I know it is in there. It is in there somewhere. But I just cannot retrieve it anymore. It used to come so easily. Where is it all going?
At the farm stand the last weekend, my youngest daughter and I selected three pastries. They make their own fresh donuts and muffins on the weekend. If we get there early enough, the selection is large and the pastries are still warm. We walked up to the register with our box of pastries and a watermelon. When the clerk asked us what was in the box so she could ring us out, I drew a complete blank. Uh? Um, not donuts.
"Did you get fritters?" the clerk helpfully suggested.
Nope, not the fritters. That didn't sound right. What the hell was in the box. Finally my daughter, embarrassed for me, said, "One cinnamon roll, one cinnamon twist, and one scone. Yeesh mom, do you even remember which daughter I am?" I knew she was trying to make a joke to lighten the sudden tension, or did she really want reassurance that I remembered her name?
It’s scary to think that I am forgetting things. Already. My grandmother forgot things. I watched her forget things. I would bring my daughters, at the time they were very little, to the nursing home to visit her. Some days she forgot why she was there or where she was. She forgot who I was or who the girls were. On the good days, she remembered that her favorite coffee was the french vanilla with cream and sugar that we brought for her to drink. She would remember our faces and our names. She would remember that she gave the best hugs in the world. She would remember that she sang in the most beautiful Irish brogue and sang for us “My Wild Irish Rose.”
On other days, she would forget. She had her earrings on her fingers. She would forget to brush her hair or put on her lipstick. She would become argumentative and uncooperative. She would be scared. She would ask for her mom and she would ask for her sister.
She would forget.
I don’t want to forget.
Maybe it is because my grandmother lost her keeper of memories. She lost her husband, her sister, her parents, all of those people who helped create memories with her. All of the people who made her, her. She had an amazing life filled with her own adventures. She and her husband took vacations before children, with children, and after children. She had stories about her childhood she would share. I wish I had written those down. Because, as I have now mentioned. I don't remember any of them. I have forgotten to remember my grandmother's stories. I have forgotten my grandmother.
And now here I am. I can’t even remember what I was writing about. I have to keep notes. I have notes for my notes. My phone has a notes app. I use that to help me. I also send myself texts, and take pictures of things I need to remember. I typed up all of my user names and passwords. Why do we need so many user names and passwords these days? Who can remember all of these? These are all stored in my notes. But just in case I forget to remember my notes, I send a copy of my notes to one of my daughters. She immediately texts back, "Why are you sending me these? Is this a 'just in case' scenario?" I respond with a smile emoji and a heart and an "of course sweetheart!"
My notes came in handy just last week when I was baking cookies. This was something that I have done hundreds, if not thousands of times in my lifetime. The chocolate chip recipe is almost the same anyone finds on the back of the package, but with tweaks made during my first year of marriage to please my husband's sweet tooth. He fell even further in love with me once these cookies reached perfection. These are the cookies that our daughters grew up baking with me, and were made on every snow day. I know this recipe better than I know how to spell my maiden name.
Until last week when I tried to bake the cookies.
I knew I needed the mixer. And I needed butter. After that, it was a total blank. I stood in the kitchen staring at the mixer on the counter wondering what to do. My eyes caught sight of my phone. I thought, oh! Notes! I have the recipe in my notes! Perfect! And so, I used my notes. Not only did I have to use the notes, but I also needed to refer to them multiple times to bake those cookies.
Somehow those cookies tasted just a little bit off. No one else seemed to notice. But I did.
Eventually I will just fade away, much like my grandmother. That is my fear. I will forget to be me. I won’t remember who I am or what I am or where I’ve been.
I will be sitting in a nursing home with earrings on my fingers and wondering who these kind people are bringing me coffee.
I will have disappeared, just like the number six.