The pigs are out, and other causes for con­cern

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Janet Sheri­dan, Spe­cial to The Denver Post By Janet Sheri­dan

In the spring, as we drove across Kansas, my hus­band mut­tered to him­self, “Now a school bus is pass­ing me. Am I that old?” Later, at a rest area, we switched places so Joel could nap, and I drove 50 miles with the left turn sig­nal blink­ing. Yes, we’re that old. Men­tal lapses have be­gun to dot my life the way Star­bucks dot the uni­verse. I re­cently 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, an in­no­cent query that caused me to lose my sense of hu­mor as well.

Then, one 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 a few min­utes of to­tal con­cen­tra­tion to re­mem­ber those 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. 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 dear 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 alphabetical or­der or Craig’s zip code. Not be­ing able to find my tooth-

brush or my hik­ing boots ir­ri­tates me be­yond rea­son; and care­fully check­ing the re­frig­er­a­tor be­fore go­ing to the store, then com­ing home with a half­gal­lon of milk to go with the two we al­ready have tips me over the edge.

Re­ally, I’m wor­ried about both Joel and me.

Awhile 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 un­hinged 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 the 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 ex­tradark 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.

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