Humorist Dave Barry once said of memory loss, the nouns are the first to go.
You know the feeling. You’re deep in conversation and, mid-sentence, you can’t remember the name of a simple object or person’s name. I once worked myself into a panicked froth when it took me two hours to remember Roy Orbison. I knew the face. I knew the music—every lyric to every song. Just couldn’t retrieve the man’s name.
I’m here to tell you, officially, that my memory loss has advanced beyond nouns and into adjectives.
We were having dinner last night with some friends.
One was sharing her frustration with having two parents with Alzheimer’s Disease. Around the table, we knew too many people who had suffered from the awful disease and had far too many friends caring for loved ones with dementia. We talked about Alzheimer’s specifically and dementia in general and pondered how memory loss has become so prevalent.
Someone questioned whether dementia truly is an epidemic, or that we’re just hearing more about it. I posited that perhaps we are more aware because there are large facilities that now house dementia patients, whereas in prior generations, a doddering grandparent simply lived with his or her family, blending into the background of everyday life.
One of our dinner guests observed that even the term dementia seemed to be relatively recent. Back when Granny lived with her kids and grandkids, no one referred to Alzheimer’s or memory loss. There was another word.
Yes, there was another word. But what in the world was it?
Around the table, we all tried to remember. How did we refer to old people who had lost their memories? What was that less politically correct, more descriptively exact, word that we no longer use?
The conversation became uncomfortable. No one could remember this simple adjective.
I told our friend, “Stop trying to remember. It’ll come to you eventually. But when you do remember, even at 3 o’clock in the morning, call me. I’ll be up anyway with age-related insomnia.”
Shortly after our friends pulled out of the driveway, our phone rang. I answered.