Having a memory lapse?
When you are well along in years, have trod the earth for a number of decades, gazed at the stars for scores and maybe more years … Heck, enough of beating around the bush, when you are old — yes, old — the most especially annoying, even disgusting, brain malfunction is faltering memory — brainpower that chug-chugs to a halt then chug-chugs again, stops, then sputters on again like the power company’s unscheduled electric interruptions.
Did I say annoying? It is, and embarrassing, too, especially when you’re telling a joke and proceeding to its conclusion — and then your brain malfunctions, your memory goes blank, and you can’t recall the joke’s punch line.
Basically, other than failing to recall a punch line at the precise time of need, there are three or four crucial instances in conversations that I find irksome: when you can’t recall a name, similarly a word or phrase, a clinical term for an ailing body part excised from your inside in a medical procedure, and the title of the book where you read the exquisite passage “It is reasonable to rejoice as the day declines, to find that it has been spent with the approbation of mankind.”
But although unwelcome, memory lapse shouldn’t be cause for alarm or despair (Gosh, is this leading to dementia or, worse, Alzheimer’s?). I am talking here, not of forgetfulness, of not remembering where you put your reading glasses before going to the bathroom, or whether you have taken your usual medication before going to bed with naughty thoughts of surprising your wife.
I am talking here of recalling important words like, for example, what a government megaphone said the Chinese gifted us with — siopao, siomai, hototay, and … and … what were those other words again?
Why my assurance that memory lapse should not worry us High Blood fanatics? Because it’s temporary, momentary, transient. That’s why it’s termed “lapse” — a happening of impermanent duration.
A word — let us say “facetious” — you want to use to describe something in a lighthearted story escapes you, you can’t pin it down or make it surface in your brain no matter how hard you jog it, cajole it, threaten it with Fentanyl.
Not to panic! Just leave the bloody word in the region of the undisturbed, and one fine moment on one fine day when you are not in the least thinking about it, nor care if it comes to your mind or not — you have long since dropped telling the joke, anyway — voila, the blasted word pops up in your brain like magic.
So now your patience has paid off:
After waiting staunchly for an errant word (or name, date, whatever) to reappear in your mental radar, it did! Shh, don’t celebrate yet! Imprison first the homecoming word because for sure it will slip off your mind again, not after days but only after some brief unrelated distractions.
How do you capture and hold a word drifter which wanders off your memory when you most need it but, inexplicably and unbidden, strays back into your mind when your use for it is gone? Simple.
Scribble the danged word, and other words you keep forgetting, in a breast-pocket notebook you should carry on your person at all times. Next time you want to use the word but it defies recall, don’t waste your time sweeping your brain for it. Just flip open your breast-pocket reminder booklet.
This is assuming, of course, that you are familiar with the word, its meaning and pronunciation. It will be a disaster, if in trying to recall the word for a Chinese soup concoction, you gather from your reminder booklet entry, not hototay, but halee loke.
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Mart del Rosario ([email protected]) is a retired advertising-PR consultant.
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