Janet Sheridan: Finding cause for concern in aging process
As we drove across Kansas, my husband said, “Now a school bus is passing me. Am I that old?” Later, at a rest area, we switched places so Joel could nap; I then drove 50 miles with a turn signal blinking.
Yes, we’re that old.
Mental lapses now dot my life the way Starbucks dot the universe. Last week, I acknowledged a lady by name, then realized I didn’t know her; I also missed an appointment written in capital letters and underlined on my calendar. Two days later, I couldn’t find the cup of coffee I’d poured until Joel asked why I’d put it in the refrigerator, a query which caused me to lose my sense of humor, as well.
Then, last night, I woke up in a panic after dreaming the pigs were out, and I needed to call Joel so he could round them up. But, I couldn’t remember his cellphone number no matter how many times I thumped my head. Even after awakening, I needed two minutes of total concentration to remember seven digits I know as well as my name. By then, the pigs had disappeared.
I tell myself I have these lapses because I know more than I did when young. In my prime, I imagined my brain as a sleek computer, which quickly scanned for and found anything I requested. But now, years later, after stuffing my head with a lifetime’s accumulation of knowledge, experiences, names and nonsense, I see my brain as an exhausted librarian who’s looked after everything I’ve sent her since the day I was born. Tired, crotchety and overworked, she grumbles as she totters here and there on swollen ankles, searching for bits of knowledge she tucked away years ago. Sometimes, it takes the poor old lady weeks to stumble across the information I need.
So, aware of the aged equipment I’m working with, I fret when I can’t remember the date or alphabetical order. I’m concerned when I can’t find my tooth brush or a bunch of green onions, and I worry when, after carefully checking the refrigerator before going to the store, I come home with another half-gallon of milk to go with the two we already have.
Really, I’m worried about both Joel and me.
A while back, I walked inside on a sunny afternoon carrying a carton that contained a new vacuum I decided to assemble before starting dinner: a decision that nearly undid me. My troubles began with a ne’er-do-well formatter with 20/20 eyesight who chose a tiny, gray font for the vacuum’s manual. Though I was wearing my glasses, I had to turn on the overhead light, stand by a window and squint to read the assembly instructions, which, evidently, I did poorly, because I spent five minutes trying to connect the suction hose to the circled insignia on top of the sweeper.
After several such missteps, I finally managed to assemble the vacuum and take it for a trial run. Its easy movement and quiet hum impressed me, but I didn’t like the way it tried to eat area rugs. When I bent double to peer at the teeny-tiny setting labels to see if I’d set the sweeper too low, my upside-down position caused my glasses to fall off, and I discovered I’d been wearing my extra-dark sun glasses during the entire, miserable experience.
A short time later, Joel walked into the house talking on his cellphone. When he saw me, he held his hand over the mouthpiece and hissed, “Janet, have you seen my phone? I can’t find it!”
We shouldn’t be allowed to live on our own.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com on the first and 15th of every month.
On a cool autumn afternoon in 1914 Hayden, a human being was seen occupying space previously reserved for only birds, clouds and celestial bodies. It was a monumental occasion — one that shook the very fiber of reality for the people of Northwest Colorado.