Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Changes in the Memory After Fifty by Steve Martin

I'm still laughing at this one!!! It will be appreciated by anyone over 50--and even by some who have not yet reached that magical age of memory loss....(~.~)

Changes in the Memory After Fifty

By Steve Martin

Bored? Here's a way the over fifty set can easily kill a good half hour:

Place your car keys in your right hand.

With your left hand, call a friend and confirm a lunch or dinner date.

Hang up the phone.

Now look for your car keys.

(For answer, turn magazine upside down.)

The lapses of memory that occur after fifty are normal and in some ways beneficial. There are certain things it's better to forget, like the time Daddy once failed to praise you, and now, forty years later, you have to count the tiles in the bathroom first in multiples of three, then in multiples of five, and so on, until they come out even or else you can't get out of the shower. The memory is selective, and sometimes it will select 1956 and 1963 and that's all. Such memory lapses don't necessarily indicate a more serious health problem. The rule is that if you think you have a pathological memory problem you probably don't. In fact, the most serious indicator is when you're convinced you're fine and yet people often ask you, "Why are you here in your pajamas at the Kennedy Center Honors?"

Let's say you've just called your best friend, Joe, and invited him to an upcoming aniversary party, and then, minutes later, you call Joe back to invite him to the same party again. This does not mean that you are "losing it" or are "not playing with a full deck" or are "not all there" or that you're "eating with the derigibles" or "shellacking the waxed egg" or "looking inside your own mind and finding nothing there," or any of the other demeaning epithets that are said about people who are peeling an empty banana. It does mean, however, that perhaps Joe is no longer on the list of things that you're going to remember. This is Joe's fault. He should be more memorable. He should have a name like El Elegante.

Sometimes it's fun to sit in your garden and try to remember your dog's name. Here's how: simply watch the dog's ears while calling out pet names at random. This is a great summer activity, especially in combination with "Name That Wife" and "Who Am I?" These games actually strengthen the memory, and make it possible to solve more complicated problems, such as "Is this the sixth time I've urinated this hour or the seventh?" This, of course, is easily answered by tiny pencil marks applied during the day.

NOTE TO SELF: Remember to write article about waxy buildup.

If you have a doctor who is over fifty, it's wise to pay attention to his changing memory profile. There is nothing more disconcerting than a patient and a healer staring at each other across an examining table wondering why they're there. Watch out for the stethoscope being placed on the forehead or the briefcase. Watch out for greetings such as "Hello... you." Be concerned if while looking for your file he keeps referring to you as "one bad boy." Men should be wary if the doctor, while examining their prostate, suddenly says, "I'm sorry, but do I know you?"

There are several theories to explain the memory problems of advancing age. One is that the brain is full: it simply has too much data to compute. This is easy to understand if we realize that the name of your third grade teacher is still occupying space, not to mention the lyrics to "Volare." One solution for older men is to take all the superfluous data swilring around in the brain and download it into the newly large stomach, where there is plenty of room. This frees the brain to house more relevant information, like the particularly troublesome "days of the week." Another solution is to take regular doses of Ginkgo biloba, and extract from a tree in Asia whose memory is so indelible that one day it will hunt down and kill all the humans who have been eating it. It is strongly advised that those taking Ginkgo biloba label the bottle "Memory Pills." There is nothing more embarrassing than looking at a bottle of Ginkgo biloba and thinking it's a reliquary for a Spanish explorer.

So, in summary, waxy buildup is a problem all of us face. Only a good, strong cleanser, used once or twice a month, will save us the humiliation of that petrified yellow crust on our furniture. Again, I recommend an alcohol free, polymer based cleanser, applied with a damp cloth. Good luck!

Your car keys are in your right hand. Please remember to turn magazine right side up._________________________

* From The New Yorker, January 19, 1998.