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Thursday, May 23, 2013
Part of the function of memory is to forget*Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 7:19 PM
There are a lot of things I miss these days.
My (formerly) light-brown hair, a face without crow's feet and two good knees, to name just a few.
But right now, what I miss the most is remembering where I put my glasses. I put them down somewhere this morning and now they've disappeared. Again.
They were perched atop my graying hair earlier this morning, which is where they always are while I'm reading the newspaper, but now (and not for the first ... or even the tenth time) they're missing and I've spent the last 30 minutes or so wandering around the house looking for them.
I do this a lot.
Being near-sighted means I can do a lot of things, including reading, working at a computer, cooking and other mundane household tasks without glasses. I can even shop in a familiar store without them, although I sometimes don't recognize friends until they're within range.
This ability to navigate without glasses is one reason I become very annoyed when grocery stores, for no apparent reason, decide to move things around ... but that's another story.
Of course, I need glasses for driving, watching TV or anything else that requires precise vision at a distance of more than 10 feet or so. For driving, in addition to my everyday glasses, I also have two pairs of sunglasses (somehow I never can't find these glasses), but if it's very cloudy or raining, or dark, sunglasses are of no use at all.
So clearly, I need my regular glasses. And just as clearly, I lose them with maddening regularity. This is when my near-sightedness switches with lightning speed from being rather liberating into a serious handicap, because I can't see the glasses unless I'm relatively close to them.
And complicating the situation is that I work from home, so there's no one here to help me if the glasses grow legs and walk away. And there are days when I swear this is what's happening.
Two or three weeks ago, I started the morning with my specs perched on my head, as usual. I did some garden chores on every side of the house and on the patio, and had been back inside the house for upwards of an hour before I missed them.
An hour of time I will never recover was then spent while I roamed the inside of the house, the yard, the patio, and just for good measure, the garage, not once or twice, but five or six times. If glasses could laugh, they would have been near hysteria as I walked past them at least a dozen times while they were resting comfortably on the edge of the water garden.
By the time I found them, I was frustrated and angry with myself that I cannot do a better job of keeping track of such an essential item.
My only comfort in this irksome situation is that I haven't yet found them in a really odd place. I leave them in places that make at least some sense, such as on the laundry folding table, the bathroom sink, the top of my chest of drawers.
I'm sure it's just a matter of time before I find them in the freezer or buried under a daylily.
Every now and then, I think about buying one of those dangly chain things to wear around my neck, but that seems too much like giving in to old age. My reaction to others pointing out the practicality of that solution is not a positive one.
When my daughter helpfully suggested it, I wrote her out of my will.
When my husband enthusiastically chimed in with the news that his grandmother had used one, things did not go well. His doctor told me yesterday that John is resting comfortably now and should be out of the hospital in a day or two.
When I lived alone for almost 25 years, this wasn't a major problem. I'd like to believe it was because I lived in a much smaller home, and not because I'm at least 20 years older now.
And I have discovered that I am right - now there is proof that forgetting is not merely a product of aging.
It's doorways that are the problem, say researchers at the University of Notre Dame.
According to the title of a paper written by Gabriel Radvansky, Sabine Krawietz and Andrea Tamplin, "Walking through Doorways Causes Forgetting."
Charles B. Brenner and Jeffrey M. Zacks of Washington University in St. Louis, writing about the paper in Scientific American, say research proves the "doorway effect" is real, and that memory is more than "just what you paid attention to, when it happened, and how hard you tried (to remember)."
It appears that the brain decides some information is of short-term use, and that walking through a doorway causes the brain to purge what it no longer perceives as useful. In other words, walking through a doorway makes the brain think it no longer needs to care about what happened in the "old" room. There are a lot more doorways in this house than in my condo.
I think of this as a longer version of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Or, to put it another way, if my brain would just let go of the words of songs from 50 years ago, I'd be able to find my glasses a lot faster.
Oh, I almost forgot. This morning I found my glasses on my husband's chest of drawers, where they have no business being. But between there and here in the family room, there are no fewer than three doorways.
And, who could forget, "Who put the bomp in the bomp-ba-bomp-ba-bomp, who put the dit in the dit-dih-dit-di-dih?"
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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.