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By Katie Bourg
Senior Daze 

Forgetfulness a lifelong struggle

 


My father was fond of saying my two favorite sentences were: ‘Just a minute’ and ‘I forgot.’

My record made it difficult to defend myself. I was known to wander past the end of the block, which was consistently stated to be my boundary. I once wandered to a store, where the family butcher had to leave his shop and take me home. I couldn’t remember my phone number. He couldn’t call frantic parents to come and get me.

I was blessed with piano lessons at an early age, but could not remember whether to play the black keys or the white keys in the same five-minute period. When given tap dance lessons I was dressed as a calico cat. I didn’t remember to hold onto my calico tail and caused the girl next to me to slip and twist her ankle. I still remember her unforgivable scream and her mother’s mean eyes. It was my last performance for over seventy years.

My mother was a writer, and to be honest she tried very hard to improve my memory by reading her scripts to me. I would fall asleep. She also read poetry to me, and I was urged (make that coerced) to memorize her words. That helped a little but usually not as well as the things I heard on the school grounds. That led to another problem, and I learned to rely on ‘I forgot’ in self defense. I wasn’t really a slow learner…

Somehow I made it from one grade to another without being forced to repeat any failure. And I did enjoy the view from all the schoolroom windows where I was incarcerated. I did pretty well with words. I liked gym. I hated my violin. And I recognized the Art of Flirting, when I watched my fourth grade teacher bat her eyelids at my father one day. That gave me some satisfaction as I watched his failure to notice. Looking back, he may have been a little slow, too. I had to get it from somewhere.

My fifth grade teacher was too sharp for me. Conspiring with my father, she forced me through all that math I had tried so hard to avoid. If my checkbook balances in the morning she will automatically be given credit.

I did finally make it through the twelve grades required. I didn’t always get homework done on time, but some teachers have whips and I did manage with makeup here and there.

I wandered beyond my halls of learning with much indifference to time schedules. I like to think I made it into adulthood, and even parenthood, without any real difficulty. I produced five children who learned to keep me on schedule. They were really very fussy about being late, as was their father. He demanded dinner be ready when he came in the door. And I was expected to water his garden, or else!

Whatever my early shortcomings, I have for many years relaxed and assumed I did pretty well. I did most household duties on time. I’m a little slow to notice the fur balls Charlie the Cat leaves lying around. I eventually remember where I left the vacuum cleaner. I no longer cook much, but I retain a bookshelf full of cookbooks, just in case. I still sew. Now that was something I was good at, and a little smug about it. My mother could never sew. I had to do something better.

So here I am, doing very well, according to my calculations. I’m no chicken and don’t care. I continue to fight my over abundance, when I forget and eat too much. I remembered to water my geraniums a few days late this week. And I need to go put this morning’s wash in the dryer if I expect to wear any of it tomorrow. But I have other things in the closet if I don’t.

Unfortunately I have one problem. I decided after 80 years to learn to play that darn piano. I seem to be able to learn a tune or two. But if I don’t get back to it for a day or so I’m a complete failure. It’s gone. Don’t know where it went, but it is not in my head and not in my fingers. That didn’t bother me at the age of five. It is bothering me now. I stamp my feet and rant and grumble. Charlie gives me dirty looks. The dog hides. My son says ‘Practice!’ It doesn’t work, and I get mad at myself all over. I will pound on the keyboard with great gusto for a day or two. Sounds pretty good. Then I get busy doing something else. And ‘I forget!’

Think I better quit rambling and go back to the keyboard. But there’s a book I’ve been meaning to read. The keyboard will wait. For ‘just a minute.’

 

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