The Function of Memory

August 26, 2010


For most of my life I haven’t noticed my memory because it was something that was just there. I never had trouble remembering my wife’s birthday or our anniversary date. I’ve always known what kind of chocolate she likes and what colors are her favorites. I get up this morning before daylight because I remembered that my friends always come over on weekdays, and I make coffee from newly ground beans and toast from the loaf of walnut bread that I baked yesterday.

And I remembered the appointment that I had later this morning with an insurance adjuster. I was hoping that  he remembered the recent hail storm and would agree that the roof needs repair. Of course, that was beyond reasonable expectations.

For years I was troubled by the fact that I couldn’t remember the word capers. I would wind up having to say, “Those little green balls that go with the anchovies on the salad or pizza.”  There are several other words, but I can’t remember what they are, or won’t until I reach out for them at awkward moments and act confused, which is what younger persons expect anyway. At least capers is an innocuous  subject that doesn’t come up very often. Anyway, my wife always knows what I mean .

A couple of months ago, I’m not exactly sure when, my wife decided that we should do something about this little problem. She was kind enough to understand that I hadn’t developed selective hearing, which is what most husbands suffer from about the time they want to leave for the golf course. Then, too, I pointed out that there were a few things that she was forgetting, things like where the car was parked at the library or whether or not we had guests for supper.

Sixteen pills every day. This is the recommended regimen published by a number of reputable physicians and the reasonable sorts of brain-health enthusiasts. Nothing extreme. Small doses of things like fish oil that help keep that ubiquitous MSG from killing off too many brain cells.

Each morning I remember to fill two small bowls with the pills we will take with our meals during the day. I feel better–really I do. I know how subjective such pronouncements are, but I did remember capers without having to find my crib sheet which I keep filed under “little green balls.”

I  even remember the time my wife’s flight gets in and what day it’s on. I bet I remember to put fuel in the tank before I start out on the drive to the airport. My wife called me from Ketchikan this morning and reminded me that I need to drop by the Post Office where a check is supposed to be waiting to take to the bank. I told her not to worry, that I remembered and would soon be on my way.

In fact, I put off taking pill #9 in order to speed up this entire process and get to the bank before all the cookies are eaten and the coffee goes stale. I am entering the post office, key in hand, when I realize that something completely unexpected has happened. I can’t remember my post box number.

About charles frenzel

I've been writing all my life. I've also painted, composed, sculpted, contributed to molecular research, advanced some mathematical concepts, lived on a sailboat, and worked for a Nobel Prize winner. Nothing in my life has pleased me more than to share my life with my wife and friend of over forty years.

View all posts by charles frenzel

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