Monthly Archives: July 2022

Just One More


I’ve been a little preoccupied lately with lapses in my cognitive function. Many folks have stepped up to assure me that it’s “perfectly normal,” “nothing to worry about,” and “happens to everyone.” Thank you! It really does make me feel better.

Still, I live alone. When you live alone, there are a few things you have to be especially watchful of. Choking is one. That’s unsettling even when it happens in a public place where there is more likely to be someone to pound me on the back and/or perform the Heimlich maneuver. Home alone, choking can be terrifying. Falling is another. Once, when I was much younger, I came home a little bit tipsy. Headed upstairs to bed in the dark, I accidentally walked right off the side of the steps, landing in a heap in the kitchen. Then, my only thought was, “I’m glad nobody saw that!” Now, whenever I take a fall, no matter how minor, my mind is running through what I know of skeletal anatomy, trying to assess the possible damage. And, living alone, the thought of losing my mental faculties is especially worrisome.

I do what I can. I try to be mindful when I’m eating, chew each bite thoroughly, and not rush through meals. After too many middle-of-the-night trips up and down the stairs, due to my own and my dogs aging bladders, I have moved my bed down to the main floor, to lessen the chance of a fall. And when I notice, as I have recently, that I’m not remembering things as I should, I pay attention. First, I help myself out where I can: I try to be more alert to what is going on around me; I write things down; I plan reminders. Second, I keep track of my lapses. I somehow feel it will be better if I figure this out on my own, rather than have to have someone else inform me. So, I have one more story to document.

This happened a couple weeks ago, and within just a few days of the other major forgetting incident that I’ve already told. I’m pretty merciful in my judgment about isolated occurrences. I’m busy, after all, and have a lot of things on my mind. It’s when the incidents of absent-mindedness start to pile up that I get concerned.

After several diversions and quite a bit of procrastination, I had finally – at the eleventh hour – gotten all the paperwork completed, and turned in my application to a gallery, for consideration for an art show. I was so proud of myself! I called my friend Linda (who knows well what an accomplishment this was) to tell her. She didn’t pick up, so I left her a message. While I was talking, not even to an actual person, I was preparing dinner for my dogs.

Rosa Parks has a “slow-feeder” dish to prevent her from eating too fast. It is bright green, shaped like a broad platter, with high nubs all over the surface. In it, she gets a measured one-quarter cup of dry food designed for small, senior, over-weight dogs, and one tablespoon of wet food, with her medicine mixed into it. I serve her on a fluffy pink rug around the corner from my desk.

Darla has a standard 2-quart stainless steel dog dish. She gets two scoops – like the scoop you’d use for flour or other grain – of her chunky dry food, plus a tablespoon of wet food with her medicine mixed in. Because she’s a big dog, I put her dish on a short stool, to cause less strain on her neck. Because the only thing my dogs have ever fought about is food, Darla is served away from Rosa Parks, at the other end of the kitchen.

It’s a little bit of a process, but I’m used to it. I had no trouble grinding up their medicines in the mortar and pestle, mixing them into the wet food, and measuring out the dry food while talking on the telephone. I put down the dog dishes, finished leaving my message, hung up the phone, and sat down at the computer. In no time at all, Darla came over and, with a big groan, dropped her head onto my lap. “What’s wrong,” I asked her, “why aren’t you eating your dinner?” I looked around the corner, and immediately saw the problem.

I had put the dishes in the opposite locations! Darla had lapped through that quarter cup of food in no time at all, “slow-feeder” notwithstanding, and determined that I was trying to starve her to death. Meanwhile, Rosa Parks probably thought, “Oh, it must be Christmas,” and tucked in to that gigantic bowl of chunky food without question. By the time I got it away from her, she had wolfed her way through half of it…which was more than five times her usual portion! She didn’t argue when I took it away, just lay right down for a nap, looking every bit like a big stuffed burrito!

Luckily, neither dog showed lasting ill effects due to my mistake. Still, it’s not something I’d want to make a habit of! It’s just one more thing I have to be more thoughtful about. One more thing to add to my “incidents list.” I hope that’s the end of it, for a while, anyway!

And Furthermore…


I forget things all the time.

I lose things regularly.

Just today, I’ve wasted an hour searching for a little device that allows me to move images onto my computer from the little card in my camera. The camera, purchased more than ten years ago, is a bit old by today’s standards, when sharpness of imagery seems to be constantly improving. For a couple years now, I’ve been using my small tablet to take photos, instead. The tablet has books downloaded on it, for reading or for listening to, so I have it with me most days, anyway. The same cord that charges the tablet will plug in to the computer for downloading photos.

For no particular reason, in the last few days I have taken my camera with me, in walks around the yard and down the road, to snap photos of the dogs, summer greenery, and blooming things. Sometime in the last two years, I moved that little seldom-used device for retrieving pictures from the camera off the desk, and put it away. But where? I have now searched all four drawers in the file cabinet, every possible shelf, and one box and two baskets where I sometimes stash things. No luck.

This is frustrating, but not worrisome. Other than having to choose a different photo than I’d planned for this blog, it’s not a big deal. Even big things, like forgetting about meetings I scheduled myself (as I wrote about a few days ago) are understandable, as long as they are isolated incidents.

Years ago, when the hardware store also had a lumberyard, and I still worked at the hardware, we got a call from a customer who needed lumber. We didn’t have full time staff at the lumberyard; one of us went up there whenever needed. I left the hardware, and got into my car to drive the quarter-mile to the lumberyard. I backed out of the parking spot, and made the necessary turn onto Donegal Bay Road. Then, muscle memory kicked in (while my brain, evidently, zoned out), and I turned left onto the King’s Highway, right onto Paid Een Ogg’s Road, left onto the Fox Lake Road, and left into my own driveway before I remembered. I was not supposed to be going home! I should be at the lumberyard!

Foolish, yes. Inconvenient, undoubtedly. But also, not the end of the world. And, fodder for a good self-deprecating story. An extreme, but isolated incident. I’m sure there have been other similarly ridiculous lapses over the years…but I can’t think of any specific examples. It’s when things like this start to occur regularly that I get bothered. I’m not quite worried yet, but I do believe it’s time that I pay more attention to things. I need to write things down, for a couple reasons. First, to keep me from forgetting things, and second, to help me remember what I have forgotten!

Keeping Track


I’m pretty good at keeping track of things. Obsessive might be a more accurate term. At a glance, I can tell you how many books I’ve read so far this year (40), and how many miles I’ve walked (172). I have daily records of my weight, work I do for myself and for others, and phone calls. It might take a few minutes to find the information, but I have records of Christmas gifts going back more than forty years. Gifts, recipients, and cost. Now, I feel like there’s something else I should be paying attention to.

Lately, it seems like my mind is slipping. In the middle of a conversation, I can’t think of the right word; I forget the reason I walked into a room; I get the names of my dogs mixed up. Most of it is nothing to worry about. I’m nearly seventy years old; I’m busy; I have a lot on my mind. This stuff happens to everyone, even people much younger than me. A couple recent incidents make me wonder, though, if it’s not time, at least, to start keeping track. Here is one of them:

A few weeks ago, a couple came in to the Community Center to see me. They were here on the island for the first time, or the first time in many years. They introduced themselves. I cannot now remember either of their names. He was the grandson of my Aunt Lizzie, who was an older sister of my Grandpa George. He was here with his wife, and they were on the island looking into his genealogy. Aunt Lizzie had, I think, two or three sons, and at least one daughter. I knew two of the sons, Walter and Hubert. They were maybe close to my Dad’s age. The man was the son of one of them, though I can’t remember which one.

Anyway, in between me preparing food and otherwise helping other customers (because I was at work, after all), we had a nice chat about family history. Though none of us had much information, it can be enlightening to compare notes, and it was a topic we were all interested in. Our mutual great-grandfather, whom I had always known as Henry (Heinrich, when he first arrived in this country from Germany), he knew as Caspar. I’d never heard that before!

Anxious for the opportunity to continue the discussion, I invited them to meet me at the family farm when I got out of work. I told them there are pictures hanging on the walls of Henry and his wife Elizabeth, as well as photos that included Aunt Lizzie as a small child. We’d have a chance, then, to exchange research and contact information, when I was not being pulled away by my job. They liked that idea, and assured me that they had transportation and directions. “I’ll see you just after seven,” I told them as they walked out.

Then, I forgot all about it. I finished work and drove home. I walked the dogs, fixed dinner, did my chores and went to bed without a single thought about it. The realization didn’t come to me at three AM, as sometimes happens with things like that. I didn’t think of it the next day, or the day after that, either. In fact, a good two weeks had passed when my cousin Caroline, whose grandfather John was an older brother of my Grandpa George, invited me to meet her for a drink. As I drove down the King’s Highway, past the family farm, headed for the pub, it all came back to me. Oh, no!

That poor couple! I imagine them waiting there in the driveway, expecting me to show up at any time…and I never came. I have no way of contacting them, to tell them I’m sorry. I can’t even remember their names. I would never intentionally do something like this. I was horrified! But, also, a little nervous. This is bigger than just daily run-of-the-mill forgetting! Maybe I’d better start writing down, for the record, these major slips. Though if Aunt Lizzie’s grandson and his wife had a say, they might suggest I apply my energy to keeping track of my appointments, rather than documenting the lapses!

Summer, Still…

Three weeks ago, near the first day of summer, I wrote about my childhood memories of this season. I could have chosen to write about summer days when my daughters were young: long walks to the park, outings to local swimming places, and long hours spent on the white, sandy beaches of Beaver Island. I could have written about summers when my grandchildren visited here: mornings at Iron Ore Bay, days full of adventure, and evening drives to see the deer. In my memory, this warm season meanders slowly along, allowing me to savor every sensory summer offering.

But, here I am, in real-life summer. The days speed by. How can we be halfway through July already?! And all I feel, most days, is exhaustion. It’s not only that it’s busy, though it is. There are hoards of people in the shops and on the streets. The harbor is filled with boats, and the beach downtown is full of people, every time I pass by. There is also the tiredness that comes from the long list of “to-do”s that are not getting done.

Always, there are things to do, and I’m behind in almost everything. My income taxes have still not been filed; there are galleries to contact regarding future shows; I have to follow up on some paperwork for the state. My flower beds are weedy, and the lawn is ready to be mowed.

I gave up on the garden when July got here. If I did manage to find the time to clear the weeds, turn the soil and plant, there would still not be time left in this short season to see results. So, my vegetable garden, this year, consists of three tomato plants, a few kohlrabi, four hills of summer squash, and one row of beans.

I’ve closed the door of my studio. Expecting company, and needing to clear space upstairs for them to sleep, I used the studio – which was already over-full – to store two totes, three big baskets and a large piece of exercise equipment. Those things can now be moved back out, but it doesn’t solve the problem: there is too much stuff in that small space, and I don’t have time to do anything about it. Even if I did, I don’t have time, this summer, to work in the studio.

Last week, My daughter Kate came for a visit. I expected her, plus her husband and two of her sons, but at the last minute, work conflicts got in the way of any of the men making the trip. What a treat! I love my son-in-law, and seeing my grandsons is always wonderful, too, but I almost never get to enjoy Kate’s company alone. I loved it! Having her here gave me a reason to stretch beyond my little world, as well as a perfect companion.

We visited all the gift shops. We walked the dogs together. We took a drive around the island, and I got my feet in the sand, at the beach at Iron Ore Bay, for the first time this year. We went out to lunch, two days in a row! We had simple suppers at home, and spent the evenings playing games. Having come from a big, competitive, game-playing family, that’s one of the things I miss most, living alone. Kate and I got in enough Boggle and cribbage to satisfy me for a while!

Kate’s visit was short, but enjoyable. It reminded me what summer can be, if I allow myself to relax and take part in it. I intend to do just that…before this summer, too, is just a memory.