My memory has sprung a leak. At first, I noticed an occasional drip, as a name, story line of a book or an appointment time would disappear. Lately, I am afraid the drip has become more frequent. Drip, drip, drip…
I’ve tried to stuff the leak with denial and arrogant shrugs, but late at night, whenever I lie awake with worry, I hear it loud and clear – drip, drip, drip. I have no idea if it could fill a bucket in a day, but I suspect it might. The next day I empty the bucket, and for a few moments pretend that’s the end of it.
I’m beginning to have anxiety about my leak. Like a blizzard, which begins lazily with a few flurries, only to become a paralyzing avalanche in a wickedly short span of time. I try to reason with my anxiety, which never accomplishes a thing. I tell myself it is nothing more than the process of aging.
I bargain with my memory incessantly. I seek to convince myself that a vast bulk of my memory is still intact. Drip. Drip. Drip. Then a name vanishes, or I forget what I had gotten up to retrieve, and the swarming anxiety returns with a vengeance.
I often try to locate a forgotten memory, only to have the process end in a frustrating mess. The memory sits sticky between your fingers, only a remnant of what it once was when alive and full and pulsing.
I do crossword puzzles every morning. When I complete the entire puzzle, I’m ready to sing the Alleluia Chorus from THE MESSIAH. When the puzzle is left with gaping blank spots and boxes, I am left crestfallen for most of the morning.
I look through church directories where I once pastored, and test how many names I can recall. In truth, I remember most folks, but there are always a few who disappear like a deer into the woods at the side of the road – there, and then gone.
I am not fond of aging. I intensely dislike the reality of losing control. My father had diabetes and died from Alzheimer’s disease. I have diabetes and … well, fill in the blanks. This often leaves me in an agitated state. I feel as though I am roller skating during an earthquake. I have never been paralyzed by fear, but I have been immobilized by the power of my anxiety over losing my memories.
I pray. God sends them right back, mostly unanswered and unopened. It's God’s way of telling me to grow-up and go with the flow. I hate those treacly platitudes, and yet spout them off repeatedly to other poor unsuspecting folks.
When I was in the ninth grade, I had a wrestling match in gym class with a guy named Zeke. Coach Ford matched us up with a smirk, and then folded his arms across his chest, pulled up a chair and sat down to enjoy the show.
Within the first minute, Zeke, who was built like an ox, had me pinned to a count of two. I had strong beer kegs for legs and managed to get free before the count of three. In the final minute of our match, I pinned Zeke to the count of about one and half. When Coach finally blew his whistle, he held up both of our arms and called it a draw. A few of the guys who had encircled us, even gave us some applause.
At this point, I will settle for a draw. It is the best I can hope for. Most days I can still think and speak with clarity, move about as I please. Most days I forget all about the memory lapses. I approach each new day with a heady confidence and a sense of control. I don’t swagger, but I still have an occasional strut to my step.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The loss of memory is a perfect metaphor for aging. Growing old is like witnessing whole days rush down the gutter with the rain, or months rushing like a river into the ocean. It doesn’t ease my anxiety, but it does help me to be less afraid. I guess it enables me to stand up and face each dawn with hope -- I’m not pinned yet.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Only time will tell, and I think it has already spoken. But there are memories that remain, and some to be created -- at least for the time being.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.