56 Is the New 93

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memory loss ahead

Over spring break I was lucky enough to take a vacation in Miami Beach with my 14-year-old daughter Jane, my 26-year-old son Hayes, and his girlfriend Maria. Hayes and Maria, who live in Boston, had many opportunities to appreciate the reason for Jane’s ongoing frustration with me as every day I forget half of what happened the day before. As Jane acidly reminds me who went home on American Idol, what we decided about shopping for a dress for the dance, and that she already told me all about the math test, all I can do is entreat her to bear with me as I bumble through the ever-deepening geriatric fog. Such is the fate of children born in one’s forties.

I hope it was only twice that I saw the book “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” among Hayes’s things in Miami and announced, “Guess what, Michael Chabon is reading at the University of Baltimore in April.” I heard a distinct tinge of forbearance in his voice when he said, “Right. And remember, my friend Ryan wants to go with you.”

“Yes! I do remember!” I answered brightly. And I did, now that he mentioned it.

I will give no more examples of this sort of thing, in an attempt to save your patience for the rest of this story.

Apparently the usual post-vacation blues can be pronounced for the senior set; I felt quite glum upon my homecoming to Baltimore. Perhaps this is because, as a Jewish person from New Jersey, I am close to the age where I should be living full-time in Florida. At a genetic level, I was expecting to stay.

Instead, however, I returned to the still-gray and chilly northern climes, where I spent the next few days making an unbelievable mess of things. Monday afternoon, while whipping up a peanut dressing for the kale salad I planned to serve my dinner guests, I stuck my left index finger in the immersion blender, which is a kind of blender-on-a-stick that saves you from dumping things in and out of a carafe.  I’m not exactly sure why my finger was in there; some kind of waste-not, want-not approach to tasting seems likely. Unfortunately my right hand was still on the power button, which I accidentally pressed. Perhaps I am lucky I still have a tongue.

Screaming, jumping up and down, and gushing of blood ensued. My daughter correctly felt I should not drive and called a kindly neighbor who drove me to Patient First. During my time at the clinic, the initial shock was replaced by a feeling of intense impatience. I kept hearing voices outside my room saying “immersion blender,” then someone would stick their head around the doorjamb and say “What’s an immersion blender?” or ” You said it was an immersion blender, right?” When the x-ray tech said, “How did this happen again?” I thought my head was going to explode.

During my procedure, the female doctor and I discussed labor and childbirth, which helped put things in perspective.

Seven stitches later, I came home to take my pain pills, drink the cocktails and eat the dinner my guests, who had arrived in my absence, had prepared on their own. Then I beat them at Scrabble. Scrabble is going to be the last thing to go, I’m pretty sure, since apparently I can play even in a blackout.

I woke up the next morning in a state of extreme anxiety which seemed a delayed reaction to the pureeing of my finger. I begged my kindly neighbor to bring me some Klonopin which I took with my pain pills and in this way glided through the rest of Tuesday, which included Faculty Scholarship Day at work and dinner with a friend at Les Aromes, a great new restaurant in Hampden. The elderly do have to have some fun, you know.

The next morning, I got up to go in for my cancer treatment, which I get every couple of months for a relatively harmless form of lymphoma I picked up along the way. This is when I realized that, though I still had my car keys and my phone, I had misplaced my purse. I was sure I left it at Les Aromes, so I spent most of the time I was getting my infusion calling, texting, emailing, and otherwise attempting to reach the restaurant.

It turned out they didn’t have it. Fortunately when I got home I found I’d left it sitting outside the sliding doors of my bedroom. Why I took it out there I have no idea, but no time to shilly-shally since I had a meeting at work. Before I left, I let the dog out to pee. Alas, the side gate was open and when I went to let him back in he had wandered off.

As I patrolled the neighborhood plaintively crying his name, I texted my department chair that I might be late for the meeting. That was when the dog showed up. Yay! I took him to the office with me so as not to lose him again. When I got there, I found I no longer had my phone. This was bad because I was supposed to FaceTime an absent colleague into the meeting. Since I did have my laptop, though, I was able to solve the problem.

As soon as I got back home, I ran the Find My Phone application on the laptop. It revealed that my phone was on Keswick Road between Cold Spring Lane and Oakdale, i.e., at my house. In fact, it was in the backyard in a pile of leaves where I must have dropped it when joyously celebrating the return of the dog. But now the computer was dying — and where was my charger? I must have left it at work. After a volley of frantic calls, emails, texts, similar to the Les Aromes incident (was that only a few hours ago?) I found it right there in the laptop case.

Later that evening, I passed out during American Idol so once again have no clue who was sent home.

I type these words from my bed, on my laptop, with my phone, my dog, my purse, my keys and my antibiotics right beside me, having put myself on lockdown as I attempt to reconstruct the outlines of this confusing and stressful week. I had hoped the geriatric fog would be more relaxing than this, I must say.


Marion Winik

Marion Winik

University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik writes Bohemian Rhapsody on the first Wednesday of the month. She is the author of "First Comes Love," and, forthcoming in fall 2018, "The Baltimore Book of the Dead." She is the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her monthly email at marionwinik.com.
Marion Winik

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  1. If you’re lucky, it could be the monumental fog i associate with menopause, which like the second coming, mysteriously abates. THEN the old age fog comes along.

  2. “At a genetic level, I was expecting to stay.” 🙂

    Maybe you just need a personal assistant. You are that famous, you know. 😉

  3. On Netflix I’m watching all the Columbos and Rockfords, which I’ve seen in their entirety countless times over the years, as if for the very first time! (I’ll be sixty this year).

  4. Jonathan and I are going through the same thing together. I am often enlisted to help him find his keys/wallet/glasses/phone. The other day he helped me when I couldn’t remember J.D. Salinger’s name.

  5. Loved the piece. These lapses are temporary they will stop soon, I promise wait till you turn 70. I finish a great read and it’s completely erased when I close the cover My doctor laughed at me. Say hi to Jane and the boys. Happy holidays. Shelly Djmal. Your moms friend. I think about her al the time !

  6. Ha! Reminds me of “Meditations on a Stolen Purse” from “Telling” although… years into the future. I love it. Love the ending!

  7. I always jokingly said I have early dementia. I realized recently that it is not that early. Right on schedule.

  8. So well written, Marion! I am so glad it isn’t just me. Thank you for the much needed laugh!

  9. Marion, you are fine! Just too many moving parts. Take a deep breath, edit a little (not your writing, your to do list!) and keep going. Your family is lucky to have you.

  10. Simply fun! You lead a rich life with your keen observations and clever humor. Thank you for sharing your talent.

  11. Marion, You are really,REALLY funny. Of course, when the forgetting & losing things gets really serious instead of just the occasional losing a wallet, a dog, & a phone, then you’ll have to find something else to laugh about, like how cute the grandkids are.

    Still think about your wonderful kitchen & the fun meal with Jaime.

    Love, Lois

  12. Love this! Fave part is “I heard a distinct tinge of forbearance in his voice…” That’s me with my Mom…I need to chill don’t I? Also, I’ll be making my way there before I know it so I better have more understanding. Sending to Mom stat!

  13. If I recall correctly I was once upbraided or perhaps just commenter’s prey when swimming into the consciousness of a remarkably busy, brilliant and chemically affected person that thought my ability to forget everything bad that happened to me a day or a week ago was not exactly ” a good thing” as Martha used to say. Nothing to do with anything other than having an emotional and spiritual life that is sometimes taking place more in the safety of your mind and not being experienced as viscerally. You’re lucky you didn’t put your tongue in the immersion blender. I would have thought the same thing 40 years ago, darling. If I remember correctly both Jane and Hayes are acting awfully Marion like. The reason that, in addition to the obvious stunning physical/visual appeal that all three of you share, I can’t help but be enthralled. Good to see your still having those, you know, “eating coconut ice cream off a knife” moments.

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