If you are technically savvy, you might want to use Evernote or Simple Note. If not, you can employ a journal, single sheets of paper, or post-it notes. Maybe, for certain things, you can utilize the voice recorder or the camera on your cell phone.You can even write on your hand, apply different colored bands to your wrist, or stick pins in your forehead if that is your preference.
But trust me, no matter how good your memory is right now, you'd better be prepared for some eventual fading. And I don't care how well you've trained your mind over the years.
For example, as a journalist, teacher, and lecturer for 5 decades, I knew my mind was, as they say, pretty sharp. In fact, I would have argued vociferously if you had hinted that maybe a little dullness was creeping in.
I would even have taken that position as recently as March, when I began my 64th year on the planet. But, of course, that would have been before what my wife and I are now calling "The Great Incident of ... Oh, Heck. I Forgot What It Was".
Here's a recounting of that tale:
When we moved from Washington, DC to Atlanta, Georgia at the end of 2015, we knew we would have to find new doctors, dentists, hair stylists, etc.
So last week, we went for a first visit to one of our new doctors located about two miles from our Atlanta Perimeter apartment. We parked in the free five-story garage, proceeded to the doctors's office in the large complex, completed the forms we needed to fill in, signed up for an appointment, and headed back to the garage.
However, we then experienced a slight parking problem.
We forgot where we had parked and neither of us could remember the exact spot. But how bad could that be? I mean it should be easier to find a car than it would be the car keys to start it right? And we definitely had those.
We began to walk around, asking each other questions like - well, which level was it on (I don't know), what letter was the area designated (I don't know) or why didn't you pay attention to where we parked (I don't know, why didn't you)?
EDITOR' NOTE: The above sentence has been strongly sanitized so that readers all ages and religious beliefs can learn from this cautionary tale.
For the first five minutes or so, I considered this an adventure. My wife, who is the serious, stable one in our 43-year-marriage, didn't find any humor in our situation. Knowing how she can be, I stopped whistling "Does Anyone Know Where My Doggie Has Gone?" and decided to intensify my search attitude. After about 15 minutes of that approach, my mind wondered again and, for some strange reasons, I began thinking about the early 60s TV show "Car 54, Where Are You?"
Now, there was no way I was panicking yet, but I admit I was moving quickly toward the mental state of being mildly concerned. I suggested that we split up. That way we could cover more ground. So my wife headed one way and I headed the other.
I figured if I found the car I would just call her and tell her where it was. She could do the same. But, after a few minutes of solo searching, I remembered (yeah, I remembered) there was a huge flaw in my plan. My wife is the type of person who never wants to inconvenience anyone. So she always keeps her cell phone on vibrate so it won't ring loudly. I remembered (yeah, more remembering) she had put her phone in a her pocketbook. Of course, another problem with advanced age is reduced hearing. There was absolutely no way she would hear me if I called.
Again, I was a long way from frantic, but I was sliding up a notch or two on the anxiety scale.
Once in a while during my search, I would spot someone getting into their vehicle to leave. I briefly considered another plan. I have found Southerners, or at least Georgians, to be extremely hospitable and nice. I could approach one of them and explain the situation. But even a man with a missing car has some pride. I mean I just couldn't bring myself to approach a total stranger and proclaim:
"Look I promise I'm not a weirdo and/or a psycho killer, but I have lost my car and my wife. Would you please drive me around and around this garage until I can find one or the other or preferably both?"
Finally, I saw my wife headed back my way. But she was walking, not driving our missing Toyota.
I came up with a yet another new plan. We should retrace our steps and enter the garage from where we drove in. By now, we both felt that we had parked on a second level, although together and separately we had checked that already.
We went all the way back to the driveway we had pulled from. Then we discovered something we hadn't realized - there were actually two five-story parking garages. Maybe we had been searching the wrong one.
We entered the unsearched garage, quickly found our car on the second level, and drove off.
On the way back to our apartment, I found myself whistling the tune "The Old Gray Mare She Ain't What She Used to Be".
Suddenly I abruptly stopped humming, jarred by the revelation that I was old enough to remember "Does Anyone Know Where My Doggie Has Gone?" And "Car 54, Where Are You?" And "The Old Gray Mare". And believe me, in today's youth-oriented world, that's old.
During my search in the garage, since I couldn't answer the question of where the car was, I mulled over the possibilities about why we had lost the car in the first place. I considered the idea that driving was once again a new experience since we had always taken the Metro or walked in DC. No, it had to be more than that. Maybe it was the newness of our environment. But I had moved 10 times before in my life and I had never misplaced a single car. It had to be more than that.
And then my body was seized with a massive shudder. I knew what the had to be more than that really was. I was old and old people forget things.
After all I had never lost a car when I was 4, or 14, or 24, or 34, or 44, or even 54. But I had had that happen for the first time when I was 64. And today I was even a couple of weeks older than that. In fact, I was right now - at this very minute - the oldest I had ever been in my life. I had stumbled upon both cause and effect. I was old, old people lose or forget things, and I had forgotten where I had parked, thereby causing me to temporarily lose my car.
At that very moment, stuck in traffic in the Atlanta Perimeter, I made a promise. To steal from the Vivian Leigh character Scarlett O'Hara in that greatest of all Atlanta movies Gone with the Wind, I made a silent, serious vow: "As God is my witness, I will never go losing my car again"
So, when a few days later, my wife had to go to our local hospital for a routine series of X-Rays, I was ready. Immediately, after exiting the car, I took a picture of our location. And a picture of the letter of our parking section. And a picture of an emergency garage call box in case my cell phone lost service or the battery died. I even took a picture of the sign I saw right by the entrance of the hospital, partly for the fact that it's really great that the hospital you will be using has been voted the cleanest in Atlanta, but also to serve as yet another identifying marker.
We found the X-Ray center and while I waited for my wife to finish, I struck up a conversation with an older Georgia woman sitting next to me.
"Would you believe I'm 92?" she asked. "A lot of things don't work so well anymore, but I'll say one thing - my mind is still sharp as a tack. I can remember things that happened 80 years ago like yesterday. And I can remember yesterday like it was yesterday. Of course, it was yesterday. I guess good memory just runs in my family. My mother lived until she was 104 and never forgot anything. My children, even my oldest boy who is 72, remember just like I do".
I was just ready to ask my new friend if she was open to some gene swapping, when Judy appeared.
We started to head back to the garage, but neither if us could remember the proper exit out of the hospital. But this time, I buried my pride. I asked a nurse. I asked a volunteer. I asked an orderly. I asked a patient in a wheel chair. I even asked a Hispanic mother and her four young children, none of whom apparently spoke English.
I'm pleased to report that with all that help, Judy and I did find our way out of the hospital. The trip through the parking lot to our car was a breeze. I didn't even have to consult my phone.
However, our forgetfulness in the hospital clearly demonstrated that I need at least one more plan.
As I often do in situations like that, I thought back to things my Dad, a native of Texas, was fond of saying. Things like:
- "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Good advice, but this memory thing was definitely broken.
- "Lord willin' and the crick (creek) don't rise". Doesn't really apply.
- "You're a liar, your feet stink, and you don't love your Jesus". Nope, definitely doesn't apply here.
- "You don't need to be usin' no high-falootin' new ways if the old ways work".
That was it. Old ways. I was old. And I was having a problem that plagued the old. Ergo, old ways would fix it.
On our way home, I stopped at Publix. I rushed into the supermarket and picked up the largest bag of bread crumbs I could buy.
I had a new plan, a plan that really was an old, old plan. Remember (and I did) the story of Hansel and Gretel. They dropped breadcrumbs along the way so they could find their way back home. Judy and I could do the same.
Now even in its initial stages, I realized this plan did have one big flaw. Someone or something could pick up the bread crumbs.
But that's where you come in. If you see a trail of bread crumbs with someone picking them up that isn't Judy or me, demand that they stop. If they won't, shout loudly "Hey you, Sir, I said stop that immediately. If you don't you're a liar, your feet stink, and you don't love your Jesus",
Now if you can't bring yourself to do that or if they don't stop and these really were my bread crumbs, I guess I'll have to resort to asking that nice 92-year-old lady I met in the hospital about that gene swapping.
But then there's a big problem with that, too.
You see, I can't remember her email and I forgot where I put her phone number. And I don't think all the bread crumbs in all the Publix stores in the South can help me with that.