I Have No Memory

June 28th, 2010

I realize the above statement is going to lead to the same response I got when I said my house is messier than other people’s: a rush of readers hastening to (very kindly) reassure me that they too have faulty memories.

But in the same way I’m sure my house is messier than anyone else’s, I’m positive my memory is worse.

Case in point: my husband took my daughter to the bank to stow something in the safety deposit box.  (For the record, we have the smallest safety deposit box that exists and even so it’s mostly empty.  We were all musing on what people put in those enormous, file-drawer-sized boxes.  Bags of gold coins?  Ropes of diamond necklaces?  For some strange reason, the bank employee refused to share any specifics with us.)

Anyway, they met up with me later and my daughter told me with great excitement that there was a beautiful ring in the safety deposit box and asked why I didn’t wear it.  I stared at her blankly.  I said, “I had no idea I had a ring in there.”

We went back to the bank.  I opened the box and stared at the ring.  It looked familiar.  I was pretty sure I had seen it on my mother’s hand.  But I couldn’t remember anything else about it.  I put it on and it looked great.  So I left the bank with the ring still on my finger.  Later my sister confirmed it was my mother’s “good” wedding-band.  I then felt like I had a vague memory of wearing it for a while.  But no memory of putting it in the box (or asking my husband to).  And we’re not talking ancient past here–my mother only gave me the ring six years ago.  (I know this not because I remember when she did, but because she distributed her jewelry to her kids right before she died.)

Anyway, it was a good thing the ring ended up in that security deposit box.  With my memory, if I had stowed it for safe keeping somewhere in the house, I’d have forgotten all about it and probably never found it again.

In the past, I’ve done some little memory tests and so far my lack of a memory seems to be indicative of either exhaustion (check: lots of insomnia) or depression (semi-check, mostly of the PMS variety), and not anything more serious.

But then this weekend we went out to dinner with a neurologist friend who showed us one of his tests for Alzheimer’s: he hooks his fingers together and asks the patient to imitate what he’s done.   He ran through several finger positions for us.

And I couldn’t do them.  Seriously.  My husband and the doctor’s wife were blithely keeping up, but I was staring at his fingers and twisting my own together and trying to get them to do the same thing his were . . . and failing.  He kept coaching me and showing me the fingers from different angles, but mine wouldn’t go together like that.

Eventually his wife patted me on the shoulder and kindly told me not to worry about it and we stopped the exercise.

I’m not sure what to make of that.  I’m hoping the week of no sleep and glass of wine that preceded our dinner had something to do with it.

Meanwhile the kids lose patience with my bad memory five times a day–“Mom, I TOLD you about that already and you said it was fine”; “You promised me like three times you’d get that today–how could you forget?”; “What do you mean you’ve never seen that before?  You were with me when I bought it” and so on.  It drives them crazy.

And forget my childhood.  It’s gone.  So is everyone I knew up through college whom I’m no longer in touch with and any school parent I’ve met fewer than a half dozen times.  Sorry, by the way, if I meet you one day and I don’t remember you.  It’s not personal or malicious.  I really don’t remember you.

A mysterious clue to my forgotten past

On the plus side, I continue to find the same old jokes funny because I don’t remember the punchline.  See?  A silver lining.