Life is full of surprises isn’t it? You would think by my age I would have seen it all by now but no like everyone else there is always something to surprise. Speaking of age and all that comes with growing old I can say I am becoming a victim, if that is the right word, of it. According to one theory we begin the downward slope of deterioration once we are beyond the age of twenty-one. Until that age we evidently continue to grow. Obviously twenty-one is only an approximation though I remember noticing small things happening to me at around about that age which would seem to support the theory. Physical ability and strength are usually the first things one notices which begin to deteriorate. We simply cannot do things as we once were able to. Oh yes we can do them though often more slowly or with less strength but as the years pass even that sometimes dwindles away to nothing. We begin to forget things as we age.
Though I still have an excellent long-term memory recent events sometimes elude me. I can remember events from forty, fifty, sixty years ago, even further back in some instances which were part of my life. Often though I forget events which are very recent, months, weeks, days and even hours ago disappear from my thoughts. I would guess I first noticed poor short-term memory loss around the age of sixty. An example would be my going upstairs either at home or in someone else’s house to collect something and upon getting there no remembering what it was I was collecting! I have a poor memory when it comes to people’s names though faces I do remember. Where I had seen the face is usually forgotten though. What has all this to do with a dining room? No, I haven’t forgotten…….honestly! I was up in my bedroom a few days ago searching for something to wear and inside the wardrobe I noticed a cardboard box on the shelf. That in itself isn’t unusual for I have many boxes and other things in my wardrobes besides clothing. Wanting to refresh my memory as to the boxes contents I removed it from the shelf and delved inside. I found amongst other things some small plastic bags which I thought E might find useful so I removed them. Whilst doing that I saw a plastic money bag of the type used in banks with something inside it. To my surprise it contained banknotes, two hundred and sixty pounds in twenties, tens and fives. I couldn’t remember when it was I put the bag there or why. There is a small purse in the same wardrobe in which I keep banknotes and it has a similar amount in it but I know what that money is for. This separate bag of money I must have placed there for a rainy day as the saying goes but I had forgotten about it completely. It must have been there for more than a year waiting for me to use. I took a trip to the bank and deposited most of it. With the remainder I took E out to lunch. That is where the dining room comes into the story. We drove into town and went to the plush Bold Hotel restaurant for our meal. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g191255-d568615-i180703826-The_Bold_Hotel-Southport_Merseyside_England.html
As we get older some of us get forgetful to the point that even the simplest of things become a problem. I could be talking about myself here but I am not. I accept the fact that in certain areas of my life I have become slower and yes even a little forgetful at times to some extent but I still have my wits about me! No, I was referring to some of the characters I meet in my line of work, those who employ me to do their electrical jobs. I am often surprised that many people, even younger people who you might think are more savvy regarding the location of power boards and switches in their own homes but often aren’t. I’ve had a hectic couple of weeks on the run-up to Christmas so you might expect me to be a little mixed-up sometimes but I am not, in fact I thrive on the pressure and work better under it. I had a couple of jobs to do on Thursday last and numerous phone calls for my services too. The first job was to check out a faulty power outlet and to see if another could be fitted where a suspected supply lay behind a blanked-off box. Both were located in very awkward places beneath the kitchen worktops but I managed to restore everything back to normal. The second job was to check out a cooker hood that had ceased working but it was only a blown fuse caused by a faulty lamp. Whilst there I was asked to check a floodlight which had ceased working too. The elderly couple at the house were next to useless when it came to ask about the location of switches yet they had lived there many years.
They had no idea that the supply switch for the hood was located about it even though the lady of the house told me she regularly cleaned the area above the hood where the supply switch is! The gentleman was trying to be as helpful as he could when I asked him where the switch controlling the floodlight was located and he kept saying he didn’t know. Then he showed me a switch which isolated an out-building and suggested that was the one controlling the floodlight too. Doubting it would be I humoured him and checked it out. It was as I thought, it had nothing to do with the floodlight. I asked him again if there were any other switches nearby which could be the controlling switch for the floodlight and eventually the penny must have dropped for he pointed straight to it. It was located in an out-of-the-way spot in the kitchen. I proceeded to replace the faulty floodlight with a new LED version at the gentleman’s request. Fortunately I had one in the van I was going to use elsewhere the next day. Most people would know immediately the location of a switch you might think but as we get older some things are not that easily remembered. Our thoughts are often elsewhere, we remember those things we are more often using and those we use less frequently we simply forget. Sometimes though we just lose the plot for no apparent reason at all.
It was the seventieth anniversary of my birthday last Saturday. I don’t much remember the first few though I can remember incidences in those far off days of yesteryear. Recent events and especially people I sometimes have immense difficulty in remembering though specific instances and the more memorable I do remember. It isn’t an age thing, I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Yes I do remember that! In fact I find that I can remember factual information more readily than many other things. I have noticed over the last few years in particular that I am getting progressively absent-minded. I accept that this is due to age for I never used to be this way. Simply put, I forget things more easily these days. Now we are all no doubt guilty of that to some extent and for the most part it is more of a nuisance than a liability, fortunately. Leaving home without an important document that is required for a meeting or leaving an umbrella on a train can be classed as a nuisance, an inconvenience but neither poses a real problem. It is when we forget to do something which in doing so might result in a calamity or a danger to ourselves or others. Thankfully I am not at that stage and hope I shall never be. As we get older though we do forget things. I have joked about this with people I have met during the day. I will tell them that sometimes I will go upstairs to collect something or do something but once there I sometimes have to think what it is I was intending to do! It appears I am not alone in this either, many of us do exactly the same thing. It doesn’t help when my mind is filled with other things, for instance whilst at work. As I am working my mind is often two, three or even four stages ahead of my current activity and I can therefore be prone to forgetting minor details. I have to be aware of that. Now recently we had repairs done under guarantee on some of our windows and the front door of the house. We had lived with the problems for quite a number of months but were in no hurry to have the repairs done as long as they got done at some point. The main two faults were on one of the upstairs windows in a room currently not in use as it needs refurbishing and the lock mechanism on the front door. As we were not using the room the faulty window wasn’t the main problem. The door lock was more important though having said that it was more of a nuisance than a problem. When the doors were installed we could leave the house, lift up the handle and the door would be locked. The door handles look something like those shown in the picture.
Unless we had the key we would not be able to get back indoors so it was essential that we took our keys with us if we went outside. Of course if we were leaving the house and going off somewhere we would also lock the door further using the key. The lock therefore is a two-stage device but even set at the first stage will prevent re-entry. We had gotten used to not having to do this by simply locking the door with the key whenever we left the house because whilst the lock was faulty simply lifting the handle wouldn’t lock the door. If therefore I was out in the front of the house say putting garbage in the bin I was in no danger of locking myself out by lifting the door handle. Since it has been repaired there is every chance of locking myself out unless I take the key with me. Now I do not carry all my keys around with me whilst at home but there is a single key we keep to hand that we can take outside with us and it is used to lock and unlock the door whilst we are inside the house. Now here is the funny part. On Thursday E had just gone out to do the weekly shopping with her mom and I was at home. I decided to put out the accumulated plastic and cardboard waste and duly took it to the wheelie bin lifting the door handle as I left the house. A force of habit. I had however not taken that key with me for I had forgotten that the door lock had been repaired. Fortunately I had my mobile phone attached to my belt as I usually do during the day and I was able to call E for help. It took some time to get through to her but after four or five attempts she answered and returned home ten minutes later. I wasn’t dressed to be outdoors in the cold but I was glad it wasn’t raining too. I could have sat in my neighbour’s house had that been the case. E tried her key in the lock but it wouldn’t fit, the single key was in the lock on the inside where I had left it when unlocking the door! Why oh why didn’t I take it with me? There was one other possibility, try the rear door which leads into the cellar but we usually leave its key in the lock so that it cannot be misplaced. As the door is solid with no panels the key is safe left in the lock. Would E’s key be able to unlock it from the outside? We had to open the garage door then two more internal doors to get to the rear garden and on to the rear house door. She put the key in and turned it, we were in! I thanked her and sheepishly went inside whilst she returned through the garage to her car and drove away. I must remember to take a key with me next time. Whenever I am leaving the house to go anywhere I have my handbag with me. My house keys are always in it. It is only whilst at home I don’t carry them around and it is only the front door which is waiting for me to make a mistake.
Are you a good listener? Does everything told to you remain in your memory? We all forget things we have heard, seen or spoken about, we are fallible in that respect. We usually remember those things which seem to be more important and detail is often overlooked. When somebody is speaking to us do we listen with intent? Are we concentrating on what the speaker is saying? As an example, I received a birthday card through the post on Saturday. It had been sent by a recent customer of mine or rather someone for whom I had previously worked and who had asked for my services again this past week. She had been very grateful for the work I had done and the reasonable price I had charged. Inside the card she had written ‘Have a nice day’ and had dated it 31st Oct. I tried to call her but wasn’t able to connect so I sent a text message to thank her for the card but that the date was wrong, indicating my real birthday date which is 21st Nov. I don’t remember having mentioned my birth date but I must have done at some point. If I mention anything about birthdays I usually mention that I don’t celebrate them. I never tell anyone who sends me a card that I immediately destroy them once I have read them, which is what I did with the card she had sent. I would never hurt anyone’s feelings by telling them that. I thought about why she had sent me a card and why she had forgotten my birth date. Some people forget things quite easily or get the information mixed up with other things in their thoughts. Some people just don’t listen in the first place. I have to admit to not listening as I ought to sometimes but it is usually because of the amount of things a person is telling me. I have a problem with short-term memory in that I cannot always remember recent things. My long-term memory on the other hand is very good. I have been told that I am a good listener when people have poured out their hearts to me, when they have needed someone who will listen and understand their need to do so. More often though I find that fewer people will really listen when I want to tell them things and it seems some who do forget the details.
Embed from Getty Images
On Monday afternoon I went out for a short walk. I had been playing my guitar out in the rear garden and on my return indoors found the house empty. E had disappeared in her car without saying anything. I think she went to see her mum. Anyhow I decided to go for the walk and along the route I paid a visit to the pub for a soft drink as it was very warm and humid. There were not many people there but I found someone to chat with, one of the regulars, a woman I’ve known for some years. Whilst she was paying a visit to the toilet an older gentleman who was at the bar getting a couple of drinks turned to me and said ‘Hello Shirley Anne, done anymore testing lately’? I replied that he had me at a disadvantage for I couldn’t for the life of me remember him. He politely reminded me that it was his and his wife’s apartment I had checked only a couple of days prior to see if the electrical installation was safe! I apologised for not having remembered him after such a short time but in fact it had been his wife I had contact with for most of the time whilst I was there. That wasn’t an excuse though. Shortly afterward his wife appeared and I recognised her immediately. We had a laugh about my shortcomings. In real terms my short-term memory isn’t very good and I think it gets worse as time passes. However, my long-term memory is much better and I can remember things long-passed in great detail. I had gone into the kitchen the other evening to wash a glass I had been using and when I’d done that I proceeded to put it in the refrigerator! Realising my error I quickly put it in its usual place. I put these things down to my age of course, things we do when absent-mindedness takes control. I laugh about it and others laugh too. I have attempted to put the sugar bowl into the fridge and the margarine or butter into a storage cupboard instead of in the fridge before today. All very strange and comical but harmless and good for a ‘larf’. There are worse things that I could be doing and I hope it never comes to that. One thing I do notice from time to time is when I go upstairs for some reason I sometimes momentarily forget why I went upstairs or what it was I went for! I put that down to growing old and I laugh at myself for doing it. We can laugh and joke about such things but I suppose it could be worse, I could end up with that problem being a normal everyday occurrence rather than an occasional and infrequent one.
I forget recent things. I think I am forgetting recent things a lot more as the years pass and yet I have an excellent long-term memory, even remembering exactly words in a conversation. I almost never forget faces but names I have tremendous difficulty in remembering unless I know the person extremely well or they are related to me. If I don’t see a person for a reasonably long period I am apt to forget their name even if I know them or have known them for quite some time. As an example I do not remember most of the people I knew in the church in which I was a member up and until 1998 though I had been a member there for ten years. Much information is gathered and stored in my brain yet access to it much depends on how long it has been stored there, if a long time I will recall it, if only a short time I am likely to forget it. Some things however I will never forget whether it has been stored away for a long time or a little time. In a lifetime we must gather an enormous amount of data and it is all stored away in our brains. It really is amazing isn’t it? The human brain can store so much information, far more than computers can store. It can access stored information and process it almost immediately under normal circumstances without the need for special algorithms, formulas or programs. Yet for all that capability the brain is reliant on it not degenerating. Unfortunately our brains, like the rest of our bodies, do degenerate with age but for some that degeneration can be severe and for others less so. I do not think we lose the information that is stored but we can lose the capability to retrieve it or not be able to process it if we do. I sometimes go upstairs for instance and once there forget why I went there in the first place. It might be that I went to get something and forgot what it was I wanted yet minutes or even hours later it will come to me. I want to say something to somebody and it slips my mind. Later I will remember what it was I wanted to say but the opportunity may have passed me by. So the information is in my brain somewhere but that doesn’t always mean I can access it immediately. It is as though there is a barrier preventing access that requires a trigger of some sort to release it, you could say a password but that would be wrong as any number of things can trigger a recall. I sometimes find that not thinking about something I am trying to remember will eventually allow me to remember. Concentrating does not always result in remembering something so it appears that the brain is often best left to work things out in the background but just how it does that may not be understood. I forget things and trust that I can remember them somewhere along the line. I don’t really have a choice!
It is said that our whole lives flash before our eyes, really meaning all memory runs at high speed through our thoughts when we are in grave danger or near to death. Whether that is true could be argued, it is difficult to see how it would be possible for all memory to be recalled in a very short time but unless we experience it I suppose we’ll never know. I am sure I am not alone in saying that I sometimes think of things I have experienced in my life and much of it in great detail. I can recall many things both good and bad both enjoyable and not enjoyable that have happened to me during my life but I am not so sure I remember everything. Some memories are easily recalled aren’t they? Some of them we would rather forget I’m sure of that and some of them we wish would happen again. I was thinking about memory recall and how spontaneous it is sometimes. We remember things without any conscious effort, they just pop into our consciousness. We think computers are fast but the human brain is far quicker so I believe, when it comes to recall. How much of your life do you think you can remember, how much of it has been lost or seems to have been? I think we don’t lose memory but just have difficulty in recalling some things at times. Often something ‘jogs our memory’ as they say and we recall things we thought we’d forgotten. If you were to write an autobiography do you think you would be able to recall everything, every little detail down to the colour of your clothes for instance? A lifetime of events and all stored somewhere in our brains. This is your life.