Is It Live, Or Is It Memorex?
It arrived today on slippered feet with the strength of a sledgehammer.
My doctor, in response to a simple statement of mine; “I can’t remember shit anymore….”, without so much as a preamble, ordered some blood work and a MoCA screening assessment test.
The tide has been building, lately more tsunami-like than tidal tickling, but present none-the-less. Those moments we all experience, more as we age, but universal to all; what was his name? where did I see that? I know I walked into this room for a reason! We wonder as we creak towards the age of 65 whether this is “normal” or whether we are falling prey to the scourge of all elders now alive, a hypochondriacal, media-fed frenzy of Prevagen-packed paranoia that subtly (or not so) let’s us all know that we are all but a hair’s breadth away from drooling dementia.
In his latest book, “The Road to Little Dribbling” (ahhhh could prostate-a-phobia be far behind?) Bill Bryson states: “I recently realized with dismay that I am even too old now for early onset Alzheimer’s dementia, any dementia I get will be right on time” .
Spot fucking on.
And so, following my family credo of not Googling anything until we have an actual diagnosis…or not…I dove into what, exactly, the MoCA test is.
The Montreal Cognitive Assessment test is a short (10 minute), point-tiered test, administered by clinicians who may then, from your score, attempt to determine whether you have anything from Mild Cognitive Imparement (MCI…and not the cellphone carrier) to the beginnings of Alzheimer’s related dementia. It appears better than the MMCI (Mini Mental State Examination, itself a rather diminishing title) at zeroing in on MCI as opposed to more severe forms of brain scramblers.
As an aside, were I you, and were I headed down this rabbit hole of diagnostic delirium-tremens, I would strongly suggest you set up an acronym file if only to prevent yourself from getting sucked into thinking that your inability to fluidly navigate this capital letter driven lingo is in any way a further indicator of your rapidly progressing mental disease. After all, we live in a world of youth driven, emoji-laden, acronym-istic languages; BFF, TMI, LOL, IMHO……you get this, right?
Now caution here. There are numerous “causes” listed for MCI; anything from Parkinson’s to paranoia, TBI (again…Traumatic Brain Injury) to high and low grade gliomas (Google them) to depression. Really? Well there, a simple answer. After just a small amount of amateur research I can certainly attest to a degree of depression when considering my options for the near and far-term future. But then I really wasn’t depressed when I started on this journey. I was just forgetful….to the extreme…and frustrated at being so!
Now, in all fairness, this is most assuredly THE topic of every dinner out with friends and each has their own take on these errant mental meandering. One friend suggested that you know you’re losing it when, after spinning your mental rolodex incessantly, you find yourself using the word “thingy” to describe everything from the refrigerator to your mother. “Oh you know, they played that song at the…..thingy…..in honor of what’s his name…..thingy”.
Been there. Do that. All the time.
This brings to mind a memory, an old one, which I have very little issue with actually recalling. There was a string of commercials that started back in 1971 by the company……wait for it..…Memorex. Remember them? They made cassette tapes for actual manual recording devices? The most, excuse the expression “memorable” was a film of Ella Fitzgerald stunning the viewer with her incomparable voice by literally breaking a wine glass on her high note. It was recorded on a Memorex tape (I’m sorry but a company called Memorex in an article about memory is just too ironic even for me) and then replayed to the same shattering conclusion.
“Is it live or is it Memorex?”
A Memorex employee said in a recent YouTube video; “If you’re not there live, you don’t feel it. And if you don’t feel it, it won’t change your life. And if it doesn’t change your life, why bother? This argument could be made to apply to photographs of immensely impressive landscapes and monuments and, well, anything. If you’re not there…..live…you don’t “feel” it.
While I grant the theory behind this, as I age I find my memory to be stuttering like my ‘64 Impala running on 6 or 7 cylinders. Triggers like music, photos, mementos, do indeed help me to recall not only the moments from my specific past but also the feeling that they engendered in my soul at the time of their actual occurrence. Who among us does not pause when we hear our favorite Beatles song and experience that familiar, comforting, endorphin rush that really does approximate our initial response? We are there, for a moment, again. We are once more filled with youthful vigor; our bodies and our brains firing on all fronts exactly like back then, back when we thought we’d feel that way forever.
I watched a W. Kamau Bell special recently where he, as a middle-aged man, spent some time in Daytona Beach during Spring Break, splitting his time between two disparate groups of people.
The first were four 18 year old high school graduates having their final, carefree, before they entered adulthood, Spring bacchanal. The second group was residents of an Active Adult retirement golf community.
While the Beach Dudes did their version of “beachin’ ” involving spoonfuls of instant coffee chased down with vodka and OJ, the seniors lived it up on the links, and dancing to live bands. The Bowling Babes hit the lanes and the 72 year old, forever youthful, twin brothers raced around in their tricked out dune buggy.
It was not surprising that even when queried directly about their thoughts on old age as it related to them, the teens seemed, as expected, to only see that as in the far distance and of little concern, as was the case in all our younger years. Nothing to look at here, folks.
What was noticeably absent was any mention amongst the older set of infirmity or age-related anything other than the twins comment that; “The bad thing about being 72 is your sex drives goes away………The good thing about being 72 is that your sex drive goes away”. The implication being that they were less concerned (obviously than the “Beachers”) about chasing tail and more concerned with chasing experiences. The residents did all comment on the importance of their community as support through life’s vicissitudes; deaths, diseases, etc. I would assume that brain farts are among the things that they help each other navigate around, it’s an unspoken reality of life.
I think I’ll choose to look at my life as a daily digest of a local newscast, broken into segments; Headline News, Weather, Sports, and the wrap up Comedy Relief bit. There is film on each to refresh and redirect our thought beams.
Most of all I will practice patience with myself and hope that those around me who watch me fumble over thoughts and words and names and places do the same.
And so. Is it live? Is it life? Is it memory? Or is it Memorex?
And does it matter? I lived it, I was there, it’s mine to keep….wherever in my foggy frontal lobes it chooses to reside.