Forgetfulness is just a sign of getting older

Published 12:30 pm Sunday, April 19, 2015

Have you ever started to introduce a friend and their name escaped into the never-never land that dwells right off the tip of your tongue? I have.

You know this person so well, but the name seems to be nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of silence, it comes! This is followed by embarrassed apologies to your friend because you were temporarily brain dead.

Have you ever started to say something and after the first word, completely forgot the rest of it? You scour your memory to recall it, then while somebody else has the floor, you suddenly remember and impatiently wait for an opening to get it out before it vanishes again?

Have you ever gone into a store with your shopping list in your mind, knowing that you need these items so badly you aren’t going to forget, only to get inside and forget every single thing you needed… but checked out at least $40 worth of other things that you didn’t come for?

Did you ever put things away at your house so you will remember where they are and when you need them, they are nowhere to be found? Then in church when you should be listening to the sermon, the light bulb goes off and viola! You remember! It’s all you can do not to yell, “Now I remember!”

Or… you never remember and you are certain that somewhere at your house there is a treasure trove of items you put away and can’t find?

Did you ever try to remember the name of a classmate from the sixth grade and the name won’t come no matter how hard you try? You wrack your brain for days and really let it worry you because you can’t recall, although it may be very insignificant in the grand scheme of things?

Then in the middle of the night in the midst of sound sleep, you sit straight up in bed and yell “Mary Brown!” The family thinks you have lost it completely, but you feel immensely pleased because you finally remembered… even if your family starts to watch you for other signs that may indicate you are out of your mind.

Did you ever start to do something, go into another room to do it and completely forget why you went there and what you intended to do? Then you backtrack to the other room to try to remember what you started to do in the first place? And you still couldn’t remember and felt like an idiot, but it didn’t matter because nobody knew about it but you and you laughed out loud at yourself?

If any of these things seem familiar to you, you aren’t necessarily in the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently some of them happen to most everybody, at least that’s what I discovered in recent conversations with people who admit such things do happen to them…including me!

It’s only when you experience all of them all of the time, plus others, that you may have a problem.

I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating. Our long-time managing editor at The Daily News, the late Al Hansen, when he couldn’t remember something, used to hit himself on the side of his head with his hand and exclaim, “The synapses are going!”

The synapses are the little connections between brain cells that communicate with each other, sending signals either quickly or slowly around the brain, pulling up information as well as storing it.

As we age, those little boogers seem to melt away and get thinner and thinner. The information is still stored in our memory banks; it just may take a little longer to pull them up over those aging synapses.

If, like me, you are an older person, then you can occasionally hit yourself in the head and exclaim, “The synapses are going!” People will look at you strangely, but that’s OK because you are an older person and strangeness is expected of you. It is your privilege to act strange and get away with it.

However, if you are a young person and you do all these goofy things and more besides, you are too busy and you really need to slow down and enjoy life a little more.

You’ll have enough time in the future to forget things, hit yourself in the head and cry, “The synapses are going!”

Take my word for it!