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Holinger: Senior moments made evident by forgetfulness

Published: Friday, June 29, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

“Where’d I put my purse?” my wife, Tia, asks no one in particular.

“Welcome to my world,” I say, six years her senior, and in my 60s. Not that I lose my purse, but I can set down a book on the kitchen table, go grab the car keys from my desk, then spend half an hour hunting for my book – or leave without it.

“Don’t know,” says our daughter, making dinner.

“Some day you and your brother will have to take care of us,” Tia says, only half in jest.

“Why not start taking care of us now?” I say, even though they’re still in college. “We could fake incompetency.”

“You don’t have to fake it,” I imagine my wife following up, but she refrains.

“Hey,” I needle my daughter, “who are you?”

“Very funny,” her expression says, not allowing words to dignify this nonsense.

We joke about the stuff we fear. As much as cancerous polyps lodging in a colon, the weight of a boulder announcing myocardial infarction or a mental spark igniting some limb-negating stroke, the threat of memory loss haunts most baby boomers. Witness its omnipresence in our popular culture, from Meryl Streep’s portrayal of an aging Margaret Thatcher in “Iron Lady” to John Lithgow’s tragic paternal character in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

Both our mothers suffered from dementia, so we’re intimate with its symptoms and consequences.

We jump on every preventative prescription, from vitamin D to physical and mental exercise.

We also commiserate with peers, sharing stories of word and name retrieval failures, senior moments that frustrate the will or stymie our actions. We go upstairs for a load of laundry, the phone rings, we answer it, and after hanging up, wonder why we’re up here until tripping over the basket of darks.

Whenever wanting to remember something important, I’ve gone to writing large notes in magic marker and putting them on the floor. That way, forgetting to look at the message when leaving, I get exercise stepping over them on my way out.

A confessed slight loss of memory does, however, have its advantages. When Tia comes home after a trip to Coldwater Creek’s 30 percent sale and the floor’s still not vacuumed, still covered with dog treat crumbs, I have my response at the ready, “When did you ask me to vacuum?”

Obviously, as evidenced by this brilliantly coherent, clever and insightful essay, I’m not yet a candidate for assisted living. As the literature on aging points out, forgetting names, movie titles and the grocery list on the counter does not mean Alzheimer’s.

Now, if I could only remember what I started writing about, I could give this column a decent finish.

• Rick Holinger teaches English at Marmion Academy in Aurora and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group. He and his wife, Tia, have two children and have lived in the Fox Valley for more than 30 years. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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