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Category: Health & Wellness / Topics: Coping Memory (failing, improving) Optimal Aging Relationships Wellness

I Forgot!

by Ken Potts

Posted: January 27, 2019

Humility grows as memory fades…

I used to pride myself on my memory and attention to detail.

In fact, I took a bit of offense when anyone presumed to remind me of something, suggest I'd forgotten something, or perhaps that I'd lost track of what was going on.

There are many advantages to growing older, not the least of which is the opportunity to practice humility in so many parts of our lives. In particular, our ability to recall what just happened, or what is supposed to happen, or just about anything else that is reasonably important seems to decline precipitously.\

Oh, sure, we can remember with crystal clarity the name of the lead singer for the Crying Shames (a Chicago area '60s rock band), but we haven't a clue as to the name of the man we were just introduced to yesterday.

We can write out in great detail the list of errands we have to run, but (assuming we remember to bring the list along) wind up forgetting half of them unless we constantly read the list between stops.

We can readily agree to call our spouse to let her know when we will meet her for dinner, and then not only forget to call, but forget to meet her.

This loss of immediate memory can be particularly interesting in our closest relationships.

For example, my wife and kids are used to me always knowing what's on the agenda -- what we need to get done, where we need to go, and how we're going to get there. Our family life has evolved over the years around this being my responsibility. It fits my personality, I enjoy it, and I have been pretty good at it. So when it comes to a division of family labor, it just makes good sense for me to have this job.

Or, just made good sense -- past tense. It is not uncommon now for someone to have to remind me that I just missed a turnoff, or forgot to make a stop, or double scheduled myself.

This doesn't happen all the time, but it certainly happens enough that my family is starting to realize they can't always count on me to be on top of things.

I've tried to compensate for this by writing things down more often, even to the point of listing things I couldn't possible forget (but you never know). And, when I remember to both bring and consult my lists, this helps a lot.

I also never assume I know how to get someplace, and will check out a map, even ask for directions, much more readily than I ever did.

The most important change I've made, however, is to be a lot more humble. No longer do I experience that inner twinge of irritation when someone else in the family tentatively speaks up and asks "did you remember ...?" or "are you sure you know?"

We have now had enough experiences of my not remembering and not knowing that any confidence, on my part or theirs, that I am on top of things is at least questionable and too often misplaced.

It has been an interesting transition for us all. Not only does it require humility (on my part), but patience (on their part), and a good sense of humor (on all our parts).

It also has meant a good deal more teamwork for the adults in our family, and a bit of growing up for the kids.

It is hard to say how much more scatterbrained I'll get as I get older. I can't say I look forward to getting more forgetful, and I do practice some of the things gerontologists tell us will help preserve our memories.

On the other hand, sometimes it actually is a relief to be able to just laugh at myself and confess "I forgot."


Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of SamaraCare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Posted: January 27, 2019

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