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I'll never forget what's-her-name.

Long-term memories are stored in filing cabinets of the mind-but

years of neglect cause certain drawers to become stuck.

My dear wife of 40 odd years (the other 11 have been fairly even) takes delight in reminding me, and everyone else within earshot, that I am not as young as I used to be. A man of 75, however, doesn't need to be reminded that he is not as young as he used to be. In fact, I can't remember ever being as young as I used to be. And while you are thinking that over, I'll see if I can remember what the heck I was planning to write about. . . .

Oh yes: memory loss, reported to be the first speed bump one hits on his journey down the highway of life. And although I don't look anywhere near my age-especially when I can remember to comb my hair forward instead of back-I will admit that awkward moments are becoming more and more frequent.

Only last week, for example-or was it two weeks ago? -while waiting for my dear wife to run into the IGA for a loaf of bread, I remembered that I needed a haircut. Leaving a note on the steering wheel in case she got back before I did, I walked across the street to the barber shop. Here I waited until all my predecessors had been shorn and then hopped into the converted La-Z-Boy.

"And what can I do for you?" the barber asked, somewhat mystified.

Because barbers went out of the shaving business I've forgotten how many years ago, and removing moles by electric needle was outlawed about the same time, the barber doesn't have a whole lot to do except cut hair.

"You can give me a haircut," I responded, striving to hold the sarcasm to a minimum.

"I gave you a haircut yesterday," he said, wheeling the chair around so I could take a look in the silverbacked portion of his mirror.

After slinking out, I went directly to the Owen County Public Library. Was there perhaps a book that might offer some pointers on how to revitalize the old memory buds and lessen a man's chances of committing these faux pas? I came away with Memory, a book by Elizabeth Loftus. My dear wife discovered it in the back seat of the car three weeks later.

"Is this yours?" she queried. "I don't remember," I said. "Well, you'd better remember to take it back," said she"It's already a week overdue."

So, to be honest, I didn't do the book justice. I did learn that there are three stages in the memory system: sensory register (eyes), short-term memory (STM), and long-term memory (LTM). The author likens STM and LTM to a desk: the top of the desk is the STM, the drawers or files are the LTM. We remember what's in the drawers because we have rehearsed the material over and over (bragging to our kids how we walked four miles to school in waist-deep snow), but the stuff on top of the desk too often gets lost in the shuffle. That accounts for the wife's getting out of the car to watch hubby fix a flat and his driving off without her. Or he drives to work and takes a bus home and then has to take a bus back to get his car. (I did that only once.) Or his dear wife plants rhubarb one week and he rototills it out the next week, under the happy delusion that he is ridding the garden of burdock roots. (I have no trouble remembering that my reward for this caper was a dinner of cold chicken and leftover boiled cabbage. Yum, yum.)

When it comes to short-term memory loss, nothing can be shorter than forgetting to remove the keys before locking the car. The last time I did that was . . . I'll have to check my checkbook.

I won't say that my dear wife was at fault. I'd like to, but one dinner of cold chicken and leftover boiled cabbage in a lifetime is plenty. I will say, however, that she said she would be staying in the car while I went into Hanlon Bros. Hardware to look for a one-man crosscut saw. (I had a twomanner, but with dear wife on the other end pulling when I pulled, and vice versa, we might as well have been using an emery board.) Out of habit, naturally, I locked my door upon getting out. I came back to find her standing outside the car, having run some trivial errand at the bank, and wearing a look that saved her the effort of announcing, "Well, dummy,

you've done it again-locked the car with the keys inside!"

To her look I responded with great relish, "Have you forgotten that I thoughtfully put an extra key in a magnetized box inside the rear bumper?" And not until I had collected bumper dirt halfway to my elbow groping for it did she out-relish me with the rejoinder "And have you forgotten that that was on the car you turned in for this one?"

The man with the van who unlocks cars for a living charges, as I knew only too well, $15 for his two-minute services-or about $450 an hour. Which is even more than I make. To save this expenditure, I would walk over to the dealership where I'd bought the car (the name is somewhere here on top of my memory desk) and see if the service manager (shoot, I know his name as well as I do my own) knew any tricks that would get me into my car short of smashing a window.

After the last of his tricks had failed, he kindly offered to take me home to get a spare set of keys. On the way, he was awarded a citation for speeding. I, of course, felt obligated to pay the 50 bucks. He felt inclined to let me. And when the key collection I had brought from home failed to work, he finally forced a metal bar down alongside the window and by joggling the door handle, presto, open it came.

I showed up at his place of business the next day because the door would no longer lock. Removing the inside panel of the door and putting a thingamabob back on the doohickey came to $24.10.
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Title Annotation:memory loss in older people
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1988
Previous Article:How safe is our blood supply?
Next Article:Good morning, Joan Lunden.

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