John Andrist: Have You Forgotten Anything Lately?


Human brain and colorful question mark

“Geez John, what are you going to be like when you get old?”

I can still hear those words from my dad ringing in my ears.They were spoken any number of times a half century ago.

In those years of business when my brain was called to multi-task, I can’t even guess how much time I spent looking for something misplaced. That’s what prompted my dad’s familiar query so many times.

I would be working away on a paper when I was interrupted, and I would carry the paper with me to deal with another matter. When I returned to my desk the paper was no where to be found.

They tell me that as your brain fills up, there is no way to delete anything — even the useless stuff — and the clutter results in making it more difficult to squeeze in something new. Sort of like closets and refrigerators.

If that doesn’t make sense to you try beat a 6-year old at a memory card game.

It doesn’t really explain, however, why some people have photographic memories well past middle-age. They read something and they know it. We secretly hate them.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Memory failure represents another good reason to be married. My wife was so good at reminding me.[/mks_pullquote]

They are the kind of people (or at least they have the kind of brain) most of us would kill for.

Here where I now live the mid-age is about 85, and we talk about memory issues all the time. I can put something on my paper calendar and on my computer calendar, and I still forget to look at the calendar.

Even worse sometimes something important to me is forgotten before I get it on my calendar. Truth be told, few of us have the kind of memory for which we pine.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need calendars. I sure hope when I get through those pearly gates I will be issued a better brain. It will open a whole new world for me.

I suspect I won’t need keys, which I have an extra affinity for misplacing in my present state, but I probably will be able to learn something new about my computer. Glory be!

They say computers don’t forget anything, that our brains just forget where we stored something. Just between you and me, I don’t believe them. I don’t want to concede they outsmart me.

The jokes seniors like to tell are legion. I wonder why I don’t forget those?

“What’s that in your ear?”


“Pull that thing out of your ear! You put a suppository in there.”

“Well, at least now I know where I put my hearing aid!”

Memory failure represents another good reason to be married. My wife was so good at reminding me. And she depended on me to remember the best road to take.

Come to think of it she filled a whole lot of different gaps in my brain.

Still, I suspect she was often annoyed at the things I forgot. I remember telling her, “It isn’t all bad. Your forgetter is the only organ that gets better the older you get!”

Staff members work hard to help us in this facility, often trying to be substitute brains.

At one similar facility they matched a great golfer with failing eyesight with a crippled guy who had very good eyesight.

The first shot sounded great, and he excitedly asked his friend if he saw where it went.

“Sure did!” he said.

“Where is it?”

“I forgot!”

If we couldn’t laugh about it, we would probably cry.

I’m indebted to my dad. Remembering his frequent “Geez John” lament is a good reminder that everything I’m missing upstairs is not a result of growing old. Part of it I never had.