According to this article, men are more likely than women to suffer from MCI (mild cognitive impairment) resulting in, among other things, memory loss. But more and more my household seems to be the exception to that rule.
I have always been amazed at my husband's ability to remember facts. He is a walking encyclopedia of information on a diversity of topics, including history, geography, music, and politics, just to name a few. I never cease to be amazed by the breadth and depth of knowledge he can call to mind at the drop of a hat. This is not a guy you want to go up against in Trivial Pursuit.
In contrast, I have never been good at remembering factual information. I have a decent grasp of the big picture of history and know a few of the most significant names and dates and places, but there are many more that I have learned and forgotten.
And for years that has been just fine. I have always just told myself that my brain is different from my husband's--that it's okay that I don't have all that information in my head because as long as I remember the things that really matter, I can go find out the rest when I need to (especially since I have a walking encyclopedia in the house).
But a few weeks ago I forgot something rather important. It wasn't a birthday or anniversary or task that needed doing, but a past event that I knew about at one time but that somehow slipped out of my memory bank. So when the occasion arose for that event to be recalled it was nowhere to be found, and that fact threw me into something of a tailspin because of what it seemed to say not just about my head but about my heart. The event in question was something I felt I should have remembered because of its significance to a loved one, and my forgetting made me feel terrible because after all, if I really cared, I would not have forgotten.
But I did forget, and for several days that bothered me to no end. I'm a woman--a wife and a mother!--I'm not supposed to forget things like this! Facts, names, tasks, and errands are one thing (and I've had my share of forgetting all of them) . . . but a pivotal experience in the life of a loved one? That's something else. It was a shocking realization to discover that I could forget the momentous as easily as the trivial, and I went through several days of feeling like a horrible person.
But as I was stewing about all of this last week the words of a friend (who simply got caught up in my meltdown by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time) gave me some comfort. You know what she said? "Cheryl, you're getting old. You're dying a little every day, and your body is showing it. It's happening to me, too. The problem is, we've never done this before, and it's scary. But it's normal. So relax. There's nothing wrong with you."
Who would have thought that it would be such a relief to have someone remind me of my own mortality? But ironically, that is exactly what her words did. Because if I can blame this on aging it means I'm not losing my mind! And I'm not a horrible, heartless person! I'm just getting old! Hallelujah!
Now where did I put that grocery list?