Tag Archives: memory loss

Losing it

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.

“Hello?”

“Senile!”

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Health

Amnesia

The last 10 days or so have been a blur, almost literally.

In retrospect, Enhance Your Vocabulary Week, and the minimal effort it required, must have been divinely inspired. Otherwise, there might have been no blog updates.

I had just been whining to you about a sinus infection which, by the way, has turned into bronchitis. But this isn’t about me.

Last Friday, something very strange and frightening happened.

My husband lost all memory for six hours.

That morning, he got up, showered, shaved, dressed for work and then, as if a switch had flipped, so did he.

His retention was lasting no more than about 30 seconds. He didn’t know what day it was or what it meant that our calendar said “Beach” on the following day. He couldn’t tell me whether or not he had eaten breakfast and he didn’t remember dinner the night before or our son having just visited. Every 30 seconds the questions started over again, “what day is it?” and so on.

I took him to the emergency room where they saw him immediately. Actually there’s not much going on in the ER at 9 in the morning. They asked him a series of questions, none of which he could answer, except my birthday. When they asked him my name, he used my maiden name.

When asked who the president is, pausing a long time and synapses sizzling, he replied, “Obama, I hope.”

His EKG, CT scan and MRI came back completely normal, as did all the other routine tests. Within six hours, his memory returned, bit by bit, except the hours of the memory lapse—and he still doesn’t remember that.

They admitted him and kept him an additional 24 hours for observation, releasing him Saturday night. I then drove us to Rehoboth Beach, where we meet out-of-town friends every year.

Two hospital physicians and, as of Thursday, another doctor, agreed on one thing: it’s a mystery. One said it was a transient ischemic attack, often called a mini-stroke. Others said it was amnesia, which occurs suddenly, without warning, and typically never returns. Amnesia wins, two to one, until we learn otherwise.

Until now, amnesia has been a distant concept. All I knew was what I had seen in the movies, usually involving a helpless waif bumping her head and whispering, “Who am I, where am I?”

Now that we know it’s nothing serious, perhaps it’s best we forget it ever happened.

But before we do, I’d like to thank the special soul who stayed in touch with me throughout the trauma via dozens of text messages and by phone, the loyal friend who sat with my husband in the hospital all day Saturday and bought me dinner in the cafeteria, our dear friends who pampered us at the beach and the angels who left homemade chicken soup at our front door, as well as all those who’ve sent prayers and best wishes our way, including my cousins who are living their own nightmare.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Health