According to so many ads on TV, online, and in magazines us older folks require a whole arsenal of walkers and stair climbers and walk-in bathtubs not to mention hearing aids and orthotic insoles. Well, we certainly can use some mechanical support devices. But the adaptations and accommodations we most lean on, don’t come from factories. It’s our friends and family who brace our tracking and recall issues.
Like, for example, when one of us abruptly jumps topics in the middle of a conversation. The other night, a gaggle of us oldsters were bemoaning the high price of groceries when one woman suddenly started talking about her damson plum cake. My first thought was she suffered from an attention deficit disorder or, for a differential diagnosis, general scattiness. But then in a bolt of empathy, I recognized my own recent difficulties hanging onto a slippery thought through the give and take of a lively conversation. It’s so frustrating to have a perfect rejoinder or insight scroll through my attention span like I’m on a subway pulling up to the platform and I have only a moment to shove my thought out before the train disappears into a dark tunnel ‘neath the streets of Boston, never to return. So, I smiled to let her know that I ‘got’ her plum cake bit. She nodded back, ever so slightly, pleased to be understood. Her train of thought had probably gone something like, ‘Yes, fruit is expensive. Plums are too. Good thing we’ve got that damson tree in our yard. It’s loaded with free, ripe fruit this year and I love the chance to make my special cake with them. Let me jam this into the conversation before it moves on or I forget what I wanted to say.’
We also, I’ve found, accommodate and put up with each other to bridge temporary memory gaps. Like the couple talking about great dining experiences. One guy says, “We really had a great meal last week.”
“Where at?” his buddy asks.
“Hmmm, what was the name of that place?” He pauses. “I’m thinking of a flower that has pickers on the stem and red petals.”
His buddy goes, “A rose. You’re thinking of a rose?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Rose, honey, where was that place we ate at last week?”
We all need some buddies to lean on…