Forgetfulness is so common that countless writers have ruminated on it, often humorously.
Mark Twain, whose writing and witticisms are anything but forgettable, observed that “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.”
That was the only quote I could remember about forgetfulness. So I looked up some others:
Science fiction-fantasy writer Vera Nazarian wrote that, “The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Good thing we have other people to help us remember.”
One of my favorites: “My ability to remember song lyrics from the ‘80s far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.”
Not sure who came up with that one, but it makes perfect sense. It’s probably happened to you. You confidently stride into a room to do or get something and stop the second you get there, unable to remember what the devil it was.
I’ve been taking this a step further of late, not just forgetting why I walked into a room but walking into the wrong room altogether. It’s more than a little disconcerting when you recall, while standing slack-jawed in the bathroom, that what you were after was lunch.
Such behavior isn’t necessarily a function of getting older. Some of us are born forgetful. The missing-shoes story is a perfect example.
I was preparing to go somewhere – where exactly seems to have escaped me at the moment – and wherever it was necessitated wearing shoes. Maybe it was a considerable distance away or required walking over rough terrain – the details are a little hazy – but shoes were definitely needed.
I looked everywhere for those shoes. In closets, under beds, outside on the patio, you name it. It hadn’t been that long since they were on my feet, but it was as if they’d dematerialized. For the life of me, I couldn’t recall where they were.
Then I remembered that a little while earlier I’d fixed myself a snack.
Was it possible?
No, the very idea was outlandish.
It was possible. My shoes were in …
This didn’t happen a few months ago, or even a few years ago. I was a teenager when it happened.
This was about the time that I started playing in a band. My main instrument has always been the guitar, but for a few years I played a bit of keyboards as well. Our group was setting up to play for a dance in Oregon one night when I realized that I’d forgotten the keyboard. We asked the audience members if any of them had one we could borrow. The result: a child’s toy keyboard that sounded like a cross between a kazoo and a calliope.
It was a very long night.
Forgetfulness can be expensive. A couple of weeks ago, I forgot to turn off the water in the back yard, which has a small fountain that needs to be refilled every week or so. It only takes a few minutes, but I got sidetracked and left the water onall night long. The water bill hasn’t arrived yet. Luckily, my wife is out of town and may never see it.
“Forgetting to turn off the water doesn’t mean you’re getting Alzheimers, Dad,” one of my daughters said by way of reassurance. “Anybody could do that.”
But what about this?
Regular readers may recall a recent column about a vacation rife with medical emergences involving pets. Roux, our older daughter’s dog, got in a fight with another dog. The results included a scratch on one of her eyes. Three weeks later, we’re still putting antibiotic ointment in it. Max, my wife’s pet lizard, got a lung infection and had to have injections every other day.
Anyone who think it’s easy to give a lizard an injection has never had to do it. Max was on full lizard alert the second he saw the needle coming. One person had to hold him while the other did the dirty work.
Usually that job falls the aforementioned daughter, who is a paramedic. On one of the days that Max had to have a shot, however, I was the only one available.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I called the vet, He’s going to do it. All you have to do is get the medicine out of the freezer and take Max to the clinic. Be sure to remember to take one of the needles, too.”
“Of course! What do you think I am, forgetful or something?”
I made absolutely sure to put both the medicine and the needles in the car. I also put Roux in the car, which wasn’t easy. She’d spent the night at our house and, assuming that I was taking her for her morning walk, bolted out of the garage and down the street. It took some doing, including a doggy-treat bribe, to get her in the car.
The clinic’s receptionist’s eyes lit up when she saw Roux.
“She’s so cute!” she gushed. “Would she like to have a treat?”
This would have been like asking Elvis if he’d like to have a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Roux is the Joe DiMaggio of dogs when it comes to catching treats tossed from impressive distances. She is also a ham. She entertained the receptionist, and just about everyone else at the clinic, by catching treats until the novelty wore off and the applause ebbed.
“So,” the receptionist said when things returned to normal. “You brought Max’s medicine?”
“Yes. It’s right here.”
“And a needle for the injection?”
“Right. It’s in this bag.”
She looked at me expectantly …
“Did you forget something?”
“No, I think that’s everything.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure I’m sure. I gave you the medicine and the needle. What else …”
Leaping lizards! I had forgotten Max!”
Who takes everything to the doctor except the patient?
It would be nice to think there are supplements that would make a person less forgetful, but my doctor says he doesn’t know of any that help much.
So it looks like I’m stuck with being a modern-day version of the absent-minded professor.
If this column isn’t in the paper the next time it’s supposed to be, you’ll know why.