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Slips of the Mind: The Fickle Fiend of Aging

October 26th, 2019 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, if it slips your mind, is it gone forever or just stuck in the gaps of memory?

If you are middle-aged or older, you know that memory becomes a fickle fiend as the years go by. Sometimes it performs flawlessly and other times it fails miserably.

I remind myself over and over again during the day: I have to remember to stop at the grocery store and pick up milk, toilet paper and bananas. And still, I get home, open the fridge door and think: Crap! I forgot!

I bump into someone I have not seen in a while. I cover my tracks with casual conversation while I think: His name. What is his name? Dan? Stan? Sam?

And most frustrating of all: I walk from one room to the next, stop in mid-step and think: What the hell was I coming in here for?

Fortunately, it does not fall all on the negative side of the ledger.

At this time of year, it is dark when I leave for work. I turn off the garage light before I get into my car. In the dark, my hand reaches around the steering wheel and inserts the key into the ignition hole perfectly. My brain, amazingly, has memorized the exact sequence of muscular movements to perform that function.

I sit in the conference room at work as a presentation is about to begin. I hear a voice behind me. My brain instantly recognizes it as Joe Smith, even though I only meet up with him a few times a year.

I walk down the hall and see the profile of someone from behind. My brain connects the dots – gender, hair colour and length, height, posture, stride – George Anderson.

Science tells us that there are three types of memory each with its own characteristics.

Short-term memory: Information stored for about one minute with a capacity limited to about 7 items. (In my case, some days I am down to 3 items at best.)

Long-term memory: This memory, events from short term memory encoded for storage, in theory has unlimited content and duration capacity for things like personal memories, facts and figures – and apparently, the profile of a person from behind. But, alas, not names.

Skill memory: This memory stores automatic learned memories like tying a shoe, riding a bike, playing an instrument – and apparently, inserting a key into the ignition in the dark.

I am a mixed metaphor where memory is concerned. My skill memory seems to be a steel trap. My long term memory is as sharp as an exacto knife at times and a dull blade at others. My short term memory is…is… you know, that thing with holes in it… the thing you use to drain the water off of pasta…

Oh, you fickle fiend! I just know you are laughing at me now.

Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com .

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