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!