S1E4. Mistakes on the Journey

Making morning love. Delightful. Surprising. With a different kind of awe and sense of discovery we experience now as lovers pushing 70 than we would have felt at 17, but awe and discovery, just the same. 

A beautiful way to begin the day, yes? Making mistakes was the furthest thing from my mind, but it wouldn’t be long before I committed my first.

I got out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen to take my medicine. I had the two pills in my hand en route to getting water when I picked up a scrap of plastic left overnight on the counter. I pulled out the garbage can to deposit the scrap and dropped the pills in, too. 

See what I mean?

Or the check I put in an envelope without signing it first. Fortunately, I caught it before I sealed, stamped and mailed it. No harm; no foul. But the fact remains, I did it.

I was looking for the keys to Sally’s car on our key hook near the kitchen door. The keys to my car were on top, and so I removed them. When I lifted her keys off the hook, I saw that there was yet a third set of keys that remained. I asked her if that was also for her car. She correctly identified them as the 2nd set of keys for my car. When I looked a second time, I saw she was right.

Sally corrects me as I am telling a story because I said ‘wedding’ when I mean to say ‘funeral.’

And here’s one that we all know all too well: the word you want is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t find it. Your listener is kind enough to provide it for you.

The mistakes are becoming more frequent. I monitor them.

The good news is that I catch a lot of my mistakes as soon as they happen…or, at least, I catch the ones I catch. (Obviously, I can’t catch the errors I don’t know I make–unless Sally flags them for me–and there is no way to tell how many of them there are.)

Making errors, though, is not really a problem. When they happen more frequently, it is a sign of subtle changes in mental status, but that might very well be normal aging. 

It’s only a problem when the errors become so severe that they get in the way of your successfully completing your daily activities. Or when you become so upset about the errors (or being corrected by friends and loved ones) that you lash out at them. Or when you start to make up stories to convince yourself and others that you didn’t really make the error, or that it was someone else’s fault. 

In clinical terms, mental mistakes are diagnostic of dementia if (1) they represent a substantial decline in your previous level of functioning, (2) what you are experiencing places you significantly below average for your age and education level, and (3) the mistakes are causing problems in your life.

So here I am, 17 days short of my 70th birthday. I’m still hitting pretty much on all cylinders. After all, I’m writing this and making edits as I go. And I’m paying bills. And I’m taking my medicine. And I make love in the morning. And I’m aware of errors I’m making and correct them when I can. 

In the great scheme of things, I’ll take that as a win.


  1. Suzi says:

    How much of the mental forgetfulness is also linked to poor eyesight or hearing or sensory overload/under load?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question. And what about stress? All of these things impact short-term memory. If mistakes are more frequent under stress, then it’s probably a harbinger of things to come. 😦


  2. Kay says:

    As a geriatric care manager, I ran into some unusual dementia behaviors. Once I “lost” a patient who I had taken to the doctor for her fasting blood work. I waited for her in the waiting room. She slipped out the back door of the doctor’s office after the nurse drew her blood and headed for some food! I had to send for the police to find her. She was a quarter of a mile away at a shopping center that had an ice cream parlor, She had ordered herself an ice cream cone! The police found her and returned her to the medical office building. She stepped out of the back of the policeman‘s car still licking her ice cream cone. She had forgotten that I had brought her to the doctors office and that she was supposed to meet me back in the waiting room. This is the same woman who figured out how to disable her automatic medication dispensing machine. There ain’t no rhyme or reason to dementia.


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