Thursday, June 23, 2011
“What day is it?” my late mother used to ask. “There’s a calendar right there on the desk,” I’d tease.
“Now HOW,” she would retort, an eyebrow ascending towards the heavens, “is that going to help me when I haven’t a clue to start with!”
Mom was in her 90s when we’d have these conversations and I’d kiss her on the cheek and tell her it was Tuesday, while I put her question down to the natural aging process. It’s true: we all forget things now and then as we grow older. But it’s only now that I’m beginning to understand she was literally right: she didn’t have a clue. Unless she had gone to church that morning, which was about the only thing she then did on a regular basis, she had nothing to connect that day with Sunday.
The slow drift into forgetfulness can begin with retirement. All of a sudden we abandon a five-day-a-week regular program of rising, working, squeezing in life, and going to bed at pretty habitual times until the weekend. We get used to enjoying our personal, social and/or spiritual activities, generally on a Saturday night and Sunday morning. Then we get up and go back to the same weekday agenda again on Monday. Then we retire.
Most of us are looking to get rid of that schedule. To be free to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Ah, bliss. That’s what I thought when I stopped working full time. I’ve finally realized I do better on a schedule. So now, I make one for myself. In my handy calendar I plot my upcoming days. They may consist of such delights as doctor’s appointments, board meetings, committee lunches or errands to run. They may also include a day trip to the beach or grandchildren’s activities or a browse in downtown Summerville’s enchanting shops. But somehow, if I have a day plotted out – even to housework – I have a better day.
That’s not just my idea. A PhD named Carrie Hill also affirms that notion when she says a good way to help avoid forgetting things, and other senior moments – or what I like to think of as “Intellectual Interludes” – is to reduce mental clutter by making lists and connecting them with calendars and other aids.
Jim and I always tease that the comfortable thing about being married to someone in the same age bracket – we are in the same bracket, but of course he is older – is that we can laugh with each other about these lapses. And sometimes laughing is just the very best medicine.
An unknown author – surely a citizen of a highly senior status – wrote an oft-quoted ditty on this very subject. It’s been updated and fiddled with over the years, but when I need a lift I like to think of my favorite lines from this oh-so-true verse:
I got used to the arthritis
To my dentures I’m resigned.
I can manage my bifocals
But God, I miss my mind!
To which I might add a “fiddle” of my own:
Now that I’m retired, and
May have lost a bit of fizz
If I don’t list my “doings,” I too
Don’t know what day it is!