Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Time flies

There is so much happening that I forget what I did yesterday or the week before. And that is not all that is happening to me. I forget and remember at one and the same time.
What I mainly remember is things that happened a long time ago. My childhood memories are crystal clear. I remember many details from the different flats we lived in as a happy family. I remember games I played with my brother, conversations between my mother and myself. We often worked together in the kitchen or doing the laundry, going to market or laying the table for a festive occasion.
I remember faces from that time of those that were my age as well as faces and names of our family doctor or leaders in the community. There are concrete and clear pictures in my minds eye. I could direct anybody walking through the town, which streets led to where, who lived where, my half hour walk to school and what we did on weekends. All that is 70–80 years ago.
Once I left home 1939 at the age of 15, memory is starting to get blurred. I forgot the names of most of the people that I encountered in my wanderings from place to place.
As against what happened 70-80 years ago, the many things that happened 40–50 years ago as well as what happened 10-20 years ago are all in a blur. Not to talk of what I did last week.
But that is what is said about the long-term memory as against the short-term memory. That is what age does to the brain.

With having said that there is still something that often amazes me. Because of circumstances of emigration from Germany at a young age, living on my own and immigration after the war to Palestine, my formal education was put on hold for decades. I attended various courses for further education and already a grandmother I went to university and got my B.A. in sociology, educational counseling and gerontology. I tried to use every opportunity to further myself and still do so today mainly in Holocaust studies, and of late research into aging.
Information that I could internalize seems to have stuck. I have a better grasp on subject that interested me, than many a much younger person. I can recall historical facts and see the overall structure, see how they fit together and often can explain that even to doctorial students.
Whenever there is a call for papers and I have a feeling that I can contribute something to the subject, I send in my proposal and mostly get accepted. At international conferences I do my presentation and hold my own next to people who have had a much better and more extensive formal education.
At the same time I need to use all sorts of rouse and tricks to get through the day and the week, to remember to take my medicine, to keep appointment, to find what I am looking for. Sometimes I walk into the kitchen and stand there, not knowing why. When I think of something and do not do it immediately I just forget to do it. When people phone me to make an appointment and I do not write it down while talking to them I have difficulty to recall what they wanted from me. Sometimes I just jot down a phone number they pass on to me, and a couple of hours later stare at it not knowing whose number it is. I have developed a routine to do things the minute the crop up and double check, using the diary as well as putting note on the door to remind me what it is that I wanted to do.
That is the trickery of the brain while growing old. The trick is to learn to live with it, and beat it as long as I can.

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