I think I’m starting to get a grasp of this senility thing.
I mean, I’m still fairly young — not yet able to qualify for AARP — but I’ve begun to have some twinges that are a harbinger of things to come.
I have a birthday coming up, and I’ll be 47. Physically I feel every bit of 47, possibly older. I wake up a lot of times wondering who sneaked into my home in the night and walloped me with a ball bat. I look for bruises, but there’s no visible signs of all the aching.
Things are starting to give out. A month ago I sprained my ankle doing laundry. That’s right, I somehow rolled my ankle lifting a basket of clean socks to dump them on the bed for sorting. Two weeks later, I thought I was all better and got up on my parents’ roof to clean out the gutters. The pitched roof bent my legs at an angle to my feet, and that weak ankle gave out, sending me falling and skidding on the shingles. At least I didn’t fall off the roof.
But then there are the mental lapses, and I can only imagine them coming more often and on a wider number of topics.
Sometimes as I get ready to go to bed, I honestly can’t remember if I have brushed my teeth or not. I will run my tongue around to see if my teeth feel clean or hold my hand up and breathe out to see if I detect a hint of mint.
I remember those days in college when I didn’t have sufficient closet/drawer space for clothes so my laundry tended to lie about the bedroom. Some days you had to sniff a shirt to see if it were one that had been washed yet because you weren’t sure.
These days I can’t remember if I have washed my own self.
When I was younger, the idea of such a thing was terrifying. How could someone just forget doing something so simple? But now I’m starting to get a handle on this.
We run on autopilot much of our lives. We do much of our daily activities unconsciously, or at least without putting much thought into it, that these events don’t really register in our memories. Then keep in mind that if I do this every day of my adult life from age 18 to 47, then I have performed these tasks 10,585 times.
Brushing my teeth doesn’t take mental effort, so why should one incident out of 10,585 leave an impression? Do you ever think about breathing? The only time I think about breathing is when I have a chest cold and know breathing can lead to coughing which leads to rib pain. Or it is when I am getting my blood pressure taken and the nurse tells me to relax, and I wonder if I’m holding my breath for no particular reason.
Unfortunately, autopilot seems to be trying to take over more and more functions, and that is a problem. I start to drive in the car, and at the end of Simpson Mill Road I either have to turn right to head to the office or turn left toward Dobson to visit the sheriff’s office/commissioners meeting/school board meeting. Autopilot will choose for me, and I’ll be a mile down the wrong path before I realize it.
A couple of times I have been in the middle of telling a story, and autopilot kicked in and my mind started thinking about something else. Then I realize I’ve stopped talking, and I don’t know if that’s because I finished the story or autopilot glitched.
I watched a VH-1 special on Billy Joel, and he told a story about a tabloid article that went viral about him performing a concert so drunk he screwed up the lyrics to one of his classic songs.
In the interview he said roughly, Oh no, the truth is much worse than that. People expect musicians to have a few drinks. My problem was that I was hungry. He said he started playing one of his old songs that he’s performed live a thousand times or more. In the middle of the first verse, he went on autopilot and started thinking about food.
Man, I’m starving. How much longer do I have to play? I wonder if I can get anything backstage before I leave the venue. Maybe when I get back to the hotel I can call room service and see if they’ll make me a tuna melt.
Suddenly he realizes that he is finishing the chorus and he doesn’t know which verse comes next. He guesses at whether it’s the second verse or the third, and he chooses wrong.
People think he was drunk, and he was thinking tuna melt. Not some fancy filet mignon, or a French dish I can’t even pronounce, but a tuna melt.
I can believe it. Heck, I have done even worse.
I have played guitar since I was 18. When he saw I was serious, my dad got me a nice acoustic for my 19th birthday. I learned a couple of songs, then over the years learned to play a couple of new ones every year. After a while I had two dozen songs I could play off memory if someone asked for a song.
At some point in the past 2-3 years, I’ve contracted a virus or malware because my internal hard drive is malfunctioning. I can’t remember crap anymore.
One day I was at my parents’ house when a cousin visiting from out of state asked me to play a song. I held the guitar in my hands and completely drew a blank. If he’d held a gun to my head I couldn’t have played anything in that instant. I was completely useless.
And I wasn’t even thinking about tuna.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.