S1E24. Scary & Scarier

Sally’s question hit me like a ton of bricks:

“When did you decide not to put cinnamon in the coffee anymore?”

I was too stunned to answer her.

Just a week earlier, I had posted a blog about making coffee and had spent a lot of time thinking about my brewing routine. In all that time, not once did the idea of putting cinnamon in with the ground coffee cross my mind. Not once.

Although that had been my routine for at least a year prior to posting the blog, it had been completely beyond my capacity for recall. It was locked in a room somewhere in my brain, emerging only after Sally’s question opened the door that facilitated its escape.

This wasn’t just simple momentary forgetting that yields to a few minutes of concentrated effort (or walking away from it and having it pop into your head an hour later). This was gone. It was the first time it had ever happened to me and it was scary.

Looking back, I have an idea about when it happened. During our recent move, there was a period of about 3 weeks when the coffee maker had been packed up and moved to the new apartment but we were still living back at the old house. Since I couldn’t brew our own coffee, we went out each morning to get our daily fix. When we did finally move into the apartment and unpack, I began brewing coffee again…but without the cinnamon.

It appears that, my routine having been broken, my brain unpacked my decades-long routine of making coffee instead of the more recent cinnamon-laced version.

This past Saturday morning, I put the cinnamon out with the other coffee paraphernalia and installed the 2.0 version of my personal coffee brewing app.

As for Sally’s question, she finally got the answer when she read this draft.  

As upsetting as that experience was, it got worse, because it happened again.

I bought this MacBook Pro about a year ago and was tickled to discover that it had a fingerprint recognition security feature called ‘Touch ID.’ Instead of typing in my password, I merely press a key with my right pointer finger and voila…I’m in! A related feature allows the computer to remember my user name and password for various sites and lets me use Touch ID to automatically enter all that information. Each time I use it, I hear Louis Armstrong singing: “And I say to myself, what a wonderful world!”

Of late, though, I found myself getting irritated because I was constantly typing in my computer’s password in order to access the auto-fill feature for user names and passwords. Somewhere along the way, I had completely forgotten about the Touch ID option. Thankfully, when I updated my operating system this week, a window popped up asking me to enter my computer’s password in order to activate the fingerprint ID feature. That prompt was all I needed to get back on track.

But why did I need that reminder? Why was I unable to recall that option on my own? Unlike the coffee episode, I was never separated from my computer, so that shoots down my hiatus theory of forgetting. 

Although I am once again appreciative of the fact that I can let my fingerprint do the typing for me, I’m having a hard time putting a positive spin on this. My best guess is that it’s not part of normal aging.


S1E6. Did I Do That?

Instead of electric blankets, we have electric sheets. If you’ve never tried them, please do! One of the highlights of our day is getting in bed at night, just to feel that head-to-toe warmth. Sally and I both squeal with pleasure!

But in order to make sure our bed is toasty warm at 11pm, I go upstairs and turn on both sides of the dual-controlled sheets at 6pm. 

(No…that is NOT where I’m going with this. I NEVER forget to turn on the sheets and I don’t need any reminders or accommodations to make certain I do. Clearly, memory is fine when one is highly motivated!)

So each night at 6pm, I walk up the stairs to our bedroom, turn on the sheets on her side of the bed, place her nightshirt under the covers so it will be toasty warm when she puts it on, and then place 2 pillows on top of the covers to weigh them down so they have contact with the sheets.

Then I walk around to my side of the bed and do the same (except I don’t have a nightshirt).

I am about to leave the bedroom when I stop in my tracks. Did I turn on the sheets on my side? I can see the pillows on top of the bed, but from where I stand, I can’t see the control. I have no memory of turning the sheet on. So I go back and check.

It’s on.

I check the control on Sally’s side–just to make sure–and it’s on, as well.

I wouldn’t be writing about this event now if it were not for the fact that the same thing happened the next night, and the night after, too. With the same result each night: I had turned my sheet on, but had no clear memory of it.

This was very different from the experience I described in my second blog entry (https://mistakesonthejourneytonowhere.com/2020/12/12/peek-a-boo/) where I forgot what I intended to do on the way to doing it. Forgetting that I did something after I had already done it, though, was an error of a different magnitude.

There are many aspects of daily life for which we don’t create episodic memories. Things that are rote, routine, automatic, done without thinking and/or repetitive are not worthy of space in our memory bank. Memory is for experiences that are unique, special, emotional, important and/or worthy in one way or another.

I decided to make this activity important to see if that would make a difference. Instead of automatically going through my routine (and allowing my mind to wander where it would while I turned on the sheets), I made a special effort to stay in the moment. When I clicked on the sheet on my side of the bed, I looked at the control. It registered an ‘8’ on its digital display. There was one red light to the left and 3 red lights to the right.

When I walked out of the room, there was no doubt in my mind that I had turned on the sheet. The image of the digital display was clear and vivid.

So, too, the next night and the night after and the night after that.

. . .

A week later, I had cataract surgery which requires using eyedrops for several days during the recovery period. Sally was my nurse, administering the drops 3 times daily. But one day, she wasn’t available and so I did it myself. 

And an hour later, I wasn’t sure that I had…

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