Still Wendy

The plot of a book I read two months ago.

The name of my husband’s infamous college roommate.

The outing I took the kids on this morning. THIS morning.

These are all things I’ve forgotten lately.

I looked at a list of books I’ve read this summer and as I stared at the first title, I couldn’t recall a single thing about the book. Not the cover, not a character, nothing. I tried to Google it, but all the listings that pulled up were for books I knew I hadn’t read.

It turns out I had written the title down incorrectly. Once I saw the correct title on Amazon, I could remember everything.

My husband was telling a story about his college days and I thought of a name of the roommate, but the name was one that we usually use as a joke name — so, that couldn’t have been the real name. So then I sat for a moment, desperate to bring the right name to mind. The first name I thought of turned out to be the right one, of course.

Bowling. We went bowling. I remembered it as soon as I asked the kids about it. I have every recollection of our time there, including the scores. I still didn’t break 100, even though we had the bumper lane. How could I forget we went there and then remember all the details?

Now, these might not seem like major lapses, except that I recently read the book Still Alice. The early onset Alzheimer story line +  my own low simmering anxiety about medical stuff and a family history of dementia made this an ill-advised book choice. The main character is an academic. I work at a college. She has kids, I have kids. She’s married, I’m married. Clearly, we are basically twins. This fictional person, slowly losing her mind, starts to feel like foreshadowing.

Forgetting things is maddening. I try to recall the thing and in it’s place is a smooth blankness, a wall too slippery to climb. It is *right there* and yet it I can’t get there. The forgetting makes me feel a sharp panic and then I find myself Googling early Alzheimer symptoms and wondering if I should start taping videos for the kids, so I can tell them how much I love them while I still remember that I do.

Excuse me, I need to go imagine my children growing up without me and then sob for a while.

I don’t actually think I have dementia. I mean, probably. Web MD isn’t conclusive. But it does make me think about the fact that I have a birthday coming up and I guess I’m starting to slide into middle age (when does middle age actually start these days?). I’m not convinced that I’m going to be graceful about this. I don’t care so much about wrinkles and gray hair (I have five now, for those keeping track at home), but the health stuff scares me sometimes, especially because I know that I’m not exactly a paragon of self-care and wellness most days.

Maybe I should go do some sit-ups or something. That should help.

(As I started to write this, I was debating watching the movie version of Still Alice, which would have been dumb. The mister and I are watching Grace and Frankie instead, which is a smarter choice, even though I still think of Martin Sheen as President Bartlet and Sam Waterson as D.A. Jack McCoy, so it makes seeing those actors cuddle seems like a very different post-POTUS life than I had imagined for him.)

(This led to me going down a rabbit hole about Martin Sheen. He seems like a person I’d like to know. He’s been married since 1961! He’s an activist! He is many things that make Charlie Sheen seem even more inexplicable to me than before.)

I’ve written myself into a corner here — so allow me to end by saying I wish either fictional President Bartlet or real life Martin Sheen was our President. If I do get Alzheimer’s, please just show me episodes of the West Wing and tell me they are real life, okay?

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One thought on “Still Wendy

  1. Swistle says:

    The “smooth blank wall” feeling is so familiar to me. I sometimes try to think of something, and I nearly have it, and I can FEEL it dissolving away. “Sand through fingers” would be a good analogy for that feeling.

    I asked my doctor about it; she’s a matter-of-fact woman about ten years older than I am. She said: “Yeah, after about 35 it’s all [*makes sliding-downhill gesture*]. And after 40? Pah.”

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