BefuddledTalk about awkward.

I forgot my aunt’s name at a family function.

At that moment, I could have given you her street address.  I could describe her living room in detail.  I could even recall the model number of her rotor tiller; I needed that when I ordered a head gasket for her.  But for the life of me, I couldn’t come up with her name.

If that were not awkward enough, she had yet to be introduced to my wife and the two of them were waiting for me to say something.

Fortunately my aunt is a gracious lady.  She broke the ice. “Hi,” she said to my wife, “I am Peg, Greg’s aunt.”

My wife was equally as gracious, “I’m Julie,” she said, “Greg’s wife, “Don’t mind him, he gets like that.”

“He always has,” Peg said, “but he is good with rotor tillers, so we keep him around.”

I am not sure why she said I always was like that because when I was young I rarely forgot anything.  People refused to play Trivial Pursuit with me because I ran the board. I had more minutia in my head than a hardware store clerk. I could remember precisely who said what at last week’s project meeting but now I am lucky if I remember to attend the meeting and occasionally I forget where I am going.

In short, as the years pile up, I get more and more befuddled.

I complained to my Doctor about this – but he just smiled and welcomed me to old age. He said it was not worth worrying about.

But it got me thinking.  When I was young, I forget nothing, now I can’t remember anything.  Could the two be related?

Until just a few years ago, I filled my head with every detail that floated past my senses.

Kids especially are like that, they maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of gossip, music and technology.  They adapt to new things so quickly because they are in the business of remembering everything.

People of my age, however, are in the business of forgetting.  The music we memorized is long out of style.  The technology we filled our head with is obsolete.

Even our basic skills are beyond their expiration date.  Who needs to know how to spell when you have a spell-checker?  Why memorize telephone numbers when you can poke at a picture on a cell phone menu?

All of this useless knowledge like DOS commands, spelling and phone numbers takes up space and every night as we sleep, our brain scrubs away the trivial.

The process is like waves on a beach that wash away the footprints of memories. Our mind tries to retain what is important, like the name of an aunt, as it wipes away the unimportant, like the plate number of our long lost VW Beetle, but sometimes it gets mixed up and the cost is befuddlement…. hence those senior moments when we can’t recall what we really need to.

But there is something else at work too, at least for me.

As time goes on, I worry less about the missed meetings or where I put stuff.  Those things have become no more important than sand-castles standing against the tide.

Instead, I focus more on knowledge that matters, like what the deer who visit my backyard eat during the winter and how many of them will make it to spring, or why people waste so much time screaming their views at each other rather than learning from each other.

Acquiring knowledge like that is worth the price of a few awkward moments at a family gathering.

Author: Almost Iowa

25 thoughts on “Befuddled”

  1. My daughter asked me to pop into a retailer and get her some things for her work – she is a registered hairdresser and so would get the items at discount. The man asked me for her name and address. I knew her name but couldn’t remember her address. Trouble was, I lived six doors away. I was about 70 at the time. Help.

    1. I am loathe to admit this but every once in a while I have to pull out my driver license to double check my house number. I keep transposing the digits. It is humiliating.

      1. Snort! I think I’ll just hang out here, you’re just like me. 🙂

        Okay, how many times have you gone into “that” room to get “this”, because you really needed to use it and stood there, wondering what the heck you were doing there?

        Half the time I’m in the wrong room and that’s sad, considering we’re in a 2 and a half room apartment. I “might” remember what I needed the next day. When I don’t need it.

      2. Thank you for letting me know that I am not the only one. My sister and her family live in California and her house number had four digits and I couldn’t cope with two. Here in England we never go over three digits. 🙂

  2. I can relate to you story, Greg. Even when I was much younger, I would address my son by our dog’s name and vice versa.

    These days, at 79, I often can’t remember the names of people and even things I use every day. The other day I stopped In the middle of a conversation with the word for that thing refusing to appear in my mind; the picture was there, but the word for it was nowhere to be found, and yet it’s in my kitchen and I drink it almost every day. It’s green, it’s a herb, but which herb? The agony lasted long enough for me to start worrying: Is this the beginning of dementia? Or am I just tired? And I didn’t want to look at the shelf, where I would have seen the name of the nameless thing. No, I wanted to remember. I wanted to prove to myself I wasn’t a hopeless case. So I applied the method of remembering by association, using my mind. I pictured the herb that grew in my garden: Mint! And instantly ‘Peppermint’ tea rolled off my tongue.

    I think I need more sleep.

    1. Sleep is good and so is complimenting your children by using the name of a beloved pet to address them. My kids love it when I do that.

      I know just what you are saying about being able to picture an object but not name it – but I wouldn’t worry about dementia. My doctor put it like this, if you forget what to call the toaster, that is normal. If you forget what the toaster is for, that is dementia.

      When he told me that, I thanked him then asked him who he was and why I was talking to him. 🙂

      1. Ha ha ha Greg, you crack me up!

        But thank you for admitting you’re having similar problems to mine. And your doctor has put my mind at rest, too. Now I can enjoy life without worrying about dementia as yet. 🙂

  3. I worked for a gal that I had known for years. Took her to a business get-together, wanting to introduce her to some of my clients and forgot her name. Well, I thought I remembered and introduced her as Mary. Her name is Terri.

    1. I come from a huge German and Irish family. The Irish are the easiest to deal with. If it is a male you are speaking to, you call them Tim. If it is a female, you call them Bridget. Half the time, you get the names right, if not they will say, “oh, that’s my brother/sister”.

  4. Luckily – even as approach dotage – I’ve always been shit with names. Spelling you are spot on about. Once I could spell anything these days nothing. I had to write a cheque out recently (cheques being very much out of favour these days I hadn’t had cause to write one for years) and (true) it took three attempts to spell my forename. The wife called me a twat of course.

  5. At 75 I am having the same memory problems. Mnemonics helps a lot. I have memorized useless trivia like all the licence plate numbers in a parking lot. And I recall the number of my 40 year old VW bus (AMU 836). Yet people’s names rarely come to me before I am in the middle of the drive home. The only comfort is knowing that often the people I speak to, don’t remember who I am, either, until I tell them. I have learned it is not a good idea to guess. One time I said to this young man, “I’d know you anywhere, you look just like your father ——. He said, “Naw, that’s our neighbor. My dad’s name is Fred…..”

    1. The only comfort is knowing that often the people I speak to, don’t remember who I am, either, until I tell them.

      I am a lot more comfortable around folks like that too. 🙂

  6. God help me if I need to recite the umpteen passwords on my computer. If it weren’t for autofill…

    When I turned 40, right on schedule, my eyesight went. I think it was right about the same time as my recall for names abandoned ship, too. Especially for anyone new.

    Of course, I have no trouble remembering good old Aunt Whatsername… nope, no trouble at all, none whatsoever… 😉

    1. Oh, I just write all my passwords on a yellow stick-it note and paste them to my monitor. (Snarf….)

      At 40, I was in the best shape of my life. I ran the Boston Marathon at 45. 50 is when everything went into the tank and 60 is when the tank sprung a leak.

      1. Did you just snarf? Hee hee, you did! You snarfed! 😀 (Don’t worry. The password thing on the sticky post? Secret’s safe with me.)

  7. Hi,
    This is my aunt. Period. I’ve always been terrible at names. (as I got older, nothing changed)
    Give everyone numbers and I’m a genius! I can still remember the license plates numbers, from my parents old cars and the cars have been gone, as long as they have. It’s just sad.

    1. Some people are like that with numbers. They also tend to be quite good with music. I suppose that would make you RainGirl. 🙂

  8. “…why people waste so much time screaming their views at each other rather than learning from each other.”

    When you find an answer to this I want to know what it is. As to music; for me, music is about emotion and as such it can never go out of style.

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